Astronomers Reveal Complete 3D View of the Pillars of Creation

Image: Screenshot from Space.com Video

Image: Screenshot from Space.com Video

For the first time, astronomers have developed a three dimensional (3D) view of the Pillars of Creation.

They used the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to produce the first complete 3D view of the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, Messier 16.

The 3D view demonstrates how the different dusty pillars are distributed in space and reveal many new details — including a previously unseen jet from a young star. Intense radiation and stellar winds from the cluster’s brilliant stars have sculpted the dusty Pillars of Creation over time and should fully evaporate them in about three million years.

The jutting structures, along with the nearby star cluster, NGC 6611, are parts of a star formation region called the Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16 or M16. The nebula and its associated objects are located about 7000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens, ESO said in a statement.

The Pillars of Creation are column-like shapes that develop in the giant clouds of gas and dust that are the birthplaces of new stars. The columns arise when immense, freshly formed blue–white O and B stars give off intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds blow away less dense materials from their vicinity.

The MUSE instrument has helped illustrate the ongoing evaporation of the Pillars of Creation in unprecedented detail. Astronomers measured the Pillars of Creation’s rate of evaporation, and MUSE has given them a time frame for when the pillars will be no more, according to ESO.

Based on the their present mass of about 200 times that of the Sun, the Pillars of Creation have an expected lifetime of perhaps three million more years. It seems that an equally apt name for these iconic cosmic columns might be the Pillars of Destruction.

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Nadeem has more than 5 years of experience as a news writer/editor. He started his career as a business news reporter at a Virginia-based financial research firm in 2008. At Morning Ledger, Nadeem is responsible for writing news stories on health and science topics.