See the pillars of creation through James Webb’s ‘eyes’: NASA’s telescope captures a star-studded portrait of the cool interstellar gas and dust clump that sits 7,000 light-years from Earth
- James Webb took his first image of the Pillars of Creation, sitting 7,000 light years from Earth
- The cosmic formation was first captured by the Hubble telescope in 1995 and then again in 2014
- The James Webb image shows that the gas and dust can be seen clumping together, and populations of stars, some still encased in dust
- Astronomers said the detailed image will help them identify far more precise counts of newly formed stars, along with the amounts of gas and dust in the region
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has shared a stunning portrait of the iconic Pillars of Creation, revealing columns of cool interstellar gas and dust surrounded by countless twinkling stars.
This cosmic formation was first captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 and again in 2014 for what was previously the most detailed image ever seen by the human eye—that is, until now.
The intricate image from JWST will help astronomers identify far more precise counts of newly formed stars, along with the amounts of gas and dust in the region.
This is because, for the first time, the gas and dust can be seen clumping together, and populations of stars, some still encased in dust, are clearly visible.
The James Webb Space Telescope captured the most detailed image yet of the Pillars of Creation, revealing columns of cool interstellar gas and dust surrounded by countless twinkling stars. This is the first time the gas and dust can be seen clumping together, and populations of forming stars with some still encased in dust are clearly visible
The JWST team proudly said that this new image will help them ‘learn a lot more about how stars form’.
The Pillars of Creation sit about 7,000 light years from Earth – one light year equals 5.88 trillion miles.
JWST captured the image using its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), which is capable of detecting light from the earliest stars and galaxies.
The telescope uses a wide range of infrared light to ‘see’ back in time, which is done by analyzing the time it takes for light to travel through space.
Hubble’s 2014 shows the stars as bright red balls, but NIRCAM was able to see the glowing flashes while in space.
The thick, dusty brown columns are no longer so opaque, and many more red stars that are still forming come into view.
The previous image of the cosmic formation was taken by the Hubble telescope in 2014m, which shows stars as glowing red balls and the thick dust appears more opaque
JWST also snapped wavy lines at the edge of some pillars, which are stars still forming in the gas and dust.
NASA explained in a announcement the young stars periodically shoot supersonic jets that collide with clouds of material like these thick pillars.
The collision can sometimes lead to bow shocks, which form wave patterns that mirror water as a boat sails through.
“The crimson glow comes from the energetic hydrogen molecules originating from jets and shocks,” NASA said.
‘This is evident in the second and third columns from the top – the NIRCam image almost pulsates with their activity.
These young stars are estimated to be only a few hundred thousand years old.
The first image of the Pillars of Creation was also taken by Hubble in 1995, which was the first evidence that stars could be born within the Pillars
The pillars of creation are located in the constellation Serpens.
This constellation contains a young hot star cluster, NGC6611, visible with modest backyard telescopes, which sculpts and illuminates the surrounding gas and dust, resulting in a large hollow cavity and pillars, each several light-years long.
The 1995 Hubble image suggested that new stars were being born within the pillars. Due to obscuring dust, Hubble’s visible light imager was unable to see inside and prove that young stars were forming.
NASA then sent Hubble back for another visit so they could compare the two images.
Astronomers noticed changes in a jet-like feature shooting away from one of the newborn stars within the pillars.
The jet became 60 billion miles longer in the time between observations, suggesting that material in the jet was traveling at a speed of about 450,000 miles per hour.