From ESA: “A New View of an Icon” – The Eagle Nebula

17 January 2012
“The Eagle Nebula as never seen before.
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Stunning new Herschel and XMM-Newton image Credits: far-infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger

The ESA Herschel Space Observatory’s new image shows the pillars and the wide field of gas and dust around them. Captured in far-infrared wavelengths, the image allows astronomers to see inside the pillars and structures in the region.

In parallel, a new multi-energy X-ray image from ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope shows those hot young stars responsible for carving the pillars.
Combining almost opposite ends of the electromagnetic spectrum, this composite of the Herschel in far-infrared and XMM-Newton’s X-ray images shows how the hot young stars detected by the X-ray observations are sculpting and interacting with the surrounding ultra-cool gas and dust, which, at only a few degrees above absolute zero, is the critical material for star formation itself. Both wavelengths would be blocked by Earth’s atmosphere, so are critical to our understanding of the lifecycle of stars.

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XMM-Newton’s images of the Eagle Nebula region in X-rays, which here is colour-coded to show different energy levels (red: 0.3–1 keV, green: 1–2 keV and blue: 2–8 keV) is helping astronomers to investigate a theory that the Eagle Nebula is being powered by a hidden supernova remnant. The researchers are looking for signs of very diffuse emission and how far this extends around the region. They believe that an absence of this X-ray emission beyond that found by previous orbiting space telescopes (Chandra and Spitzer) would support the supernova remnant theory. The work on this is continuing

Credits: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger

In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope’s Pillars of Creation image of the Eagle Nebula became one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.

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Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI, Hester & Scowen (Arizona State University)

This 1995 Hubble Space Telescope image of the ‘Pillars of Creation’ is probably the most famous astronomical image of the 20th Century. Taken in visible light using a combination of SII/H-alpha and OIII filters, it shows a part of the Eagle Nebula where new stars are forming. The tallest pillar is around 4 light-years high.

The Eagle Nebula is 6500 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens. It contains a young hot star cluster, NGC6611, visible with modest back-garden telescopes, that is sculpting and illuminating the surrounding gas and dust, resulting in a huge hollowed-out cavity and pillars, each several light-years long.
The Hubble image hinted at new stars being born within the pillars, deeply inside small clumps known as ‘evaporating gaseous globules’ or EGGs. Owing to obscuring dust, Hubble’s visible light picture was unable to see inside and prove that young stars were indeed forming.

The ESA Herschel Space Observatory’s new image shows the pillars and the wide field of gas and dust around them. Captured in far-infrared wavelengths, the image allows astronomers to see inside the pillars and structures in the region.

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Pillars of Creation in near-infrared Credits: VLT/ISAAC/McCaughrean & Andersen/AIP/ESO

The 8.2m-diameter VLT’s ANTU telescope imaged the famous Pillars of Creation region and its surroundings in near-infrared using the ISAAC instrument. This enabled astronomers to penetrate the obscuring dust in their search to detect newly formed stars. The research into the ‘evaporating gaseous globules’ (EGGs), which were first detected in the Hubble images, needed the near-infrared capabilities and resolution of the VLT to peel back the layers of dust and detect the low-mass young stars cocooned within the EGG shells. The near-infrared results showed that 11 of the 73 EGGs detected possibly contained stars, and that the tips of the pillars contain stars and nebulosity not seen in the Hubble image.

The post is here.

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