M16 - The Eagle Nebula
Credits: Keith Turnecliff
These towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas sit at the heart of M16, or the Eagle Nebula.
The blue colors in the image represent oxygen, red is sulfur, and green represents both nitrogen and hydrogen.
The pillars are bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young stars located just outside the frame.
The winds from these stars are slowly eroding the towers of gas and dust.
Stretching roughly 4 to 5 light-years, the Pillars of Creation are a fascinating but relatively small feature of the entire Eagle Nebula, which spans 70 by 55 light-years. The nebula, discovered in 1745 by the Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, is located 7,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens. With an apparent magnitude of 6, the Eagle Nebula can be spotted through a small telescope and is best viewed during July. A large telescope and optimal viewing conditions are necessary to resolve the Pillars of Creation.
Facts about M16 by Keith Turnecliff
The Eagle Nebula (catalogued as Messier 16 or M16, and as NGC 6611, and also known as the Star Queen Nebula and The Spire) is a young open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens, discovered by Jean-Philippe de Chéseaux in 1745–46. Both the "Eagle" and the "Star Queen" refer to visual impressions of the dark silhouette near the center of the nebula, an area made famous as the "Pillars of Creation" imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. The nebula contains several active star-forming gas and dust regions, including the aforementioned Pillars of Creation.