The Pillars of Creation look spooky in the latest JWST photo • The Register
The James Webb Space Telescope team released their latest shot of the Pillars of Creation that sets the perfect eerie, dusty tone for Halloween.
Unlike the star-filled, color-rich photo of the astronomical wonder released by NASA this month taken by JWST’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), latest picture it shows the pillars lifeless and grey, with a few stars visible through a thick cloak of dust.
The image was taken by the Webb Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which instead of taking images of near-infrared light focuses on mid-infrared light, which NASA says is far better at picking up interstellar dust.
“The mid-infrared light is specialized for the detailed detection of dust, [and] the stars aren’t bright enough at these wavelengths to show up,” NASA said.
What the image shows is a lot of very important dust that is a major factor in the formation of stars and stars that are still in the process of developing, which can be seen by their red hue in the MIRI photo.
“When clumps of sufficient mass form within columns of gas and dust, they begin to collapse under their own gravity, slowly heat up and eventually form new stars,” NASA said.
The NIRCam image shows the stars through their formation cycles, as well as the jets of energetic matter ejected from the developing stars, which appear as “lava” near the ends of some of the pillars. The stars emitting those flashes are estimated to be only a few hundred thousand years old.
For those curious about the size of those red baby stars, NASA has you covered: “Follow the tallest pillar, which lands on a bright red star that sticks out from its lower edge like a broomstick. This star and its dusty envelope are larger than the size of our entire Sun system.”
The Pillars of Creation were first photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 and again in 2014 in visible and near-infrared light. While the Pillars themselves are roughly four to five light years across, they are only a small part of the larger Eagle Nebula, which spans 70 by 55 light years. The nebula itself is 6,500 light years away.
Below is a video that gives you a better idea of where the poles are.
NASA said the photos of the pillars in different wavelengths of light give scientists more clues about how stars form. The latest image, NASA said, is the highest resolution in the mid-infrared spectrum that has been taken of the poles and will allow “more precise measurements of the dust to create a more complete three-dimensional landscape of this distant region.” ®
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