NASA’s most eagle-eyed observatory has done it yet. Thereturned an image of the famous “Pillars of Creation” in infrared light that is the sharpest and most detailed portrait of the spectacular star-forming region ever seen.
The ethereal scene captures translucent columns of cool interstellar gas and dust punctuated with bright, piercing points of light. Most of them are stars, and the reddish fireballs near the edges of the pillars are newly formed stars, according to NASA.
Don’t confuse these with the dark red magma-like areas along the inner perimeter of a few of the pillars. This is created by the bustle of stars that are still forming and shoot supersonic jets of matter out into space where they collide with other matter. In short, this is what cosmic chaos looks like.
Fortunately, these epic explosions and cosmological collisions are far away, at a distance of about 6,500 light years from Earth.
This region of the universe became famous in 1995 when it was photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. A follow-up campaign was carried out by Hubble in 2014, and many other observatories have also trained their lenses on the area within the Eagle Nebula.
A side-by-side comparison of the new image and Hubble’s view of the cosmic phenomenon reveals how Webb’s infrared instrument is able to peer through the curtains of dust and gas that shroud the scene.
NASA and astronomers around the world will look to images like this and other data from Webb to better understand the process of star formation.
For the rest of us, it’s an eye-catching treat just in time for Halloween.