The Eagle Nebula, complete with the Pillars of Creation, tells a mini-version of the story of how all the Universe’s stars formed.
The Eagle Nebula, found 7,000 light-years away, demonstrates how Sun-like stars are born.
An enormous molecular gas cloud, spanning 70 light-years across, provides the raw material for star-formation.
Deep inside, gravitational collapse causes different regions to collapse at different rates.
The first stars to form inside did so 1–2 million years ago, creating a cluster of about 8,000 new stars.
X-ray astronomers discovered 20% of those young stars contain protoplanetary disks, but found zero supernova remnants.
The ultraviolet light from new stars carves gaps in the nebula, but the persisting clumps continue to form stars.
The largest dust structure is known as the “fairy,” spanning 9.5 light-years in extent but evaporating rapidly.
But the most famous feature of all is the Pillars of Creation, iconically captured by Hubble in both 1995 and 2014.
The pillars illustrate an ongoing race: between evaporative radiation and gravitational collapse.
The rate of evaporation can be measured and is slow: it will take 100,000+ years for the pillars to evaporate.
In the meantime, star-formation continues, resulting in large numbers of red dwarfs and even failed stars.
This nebula and cluster will soon dissipate, seeding the galaxy with the next generation of stars.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.