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"Pillars of Creation" star-forming factory seen in stunning new 3D video from NASA

Over the years, the celestial structures of the ‘Pillars of Creation’ nestled in the heart of Messier 16 have dazzled the world’s imagination, thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope of NASA.

First made famous in 1995 by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, these formations deep within M16, also known as the Eagle Nebula, continue to captivate stargazers across the globe.

Frank Summers, the principal scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, led this initiative.

In collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning, Summers and his team harnessed data from NASA’s Hubble and James Webb space telescopes to create a new 3D visualization of these celestial wonders.

The result is the most detailed and comprehensive multi-wavelength film ever produced of these star-forming clouds.

Messier 16, Eagle Nebula, Pillars of Creation

Also known as Messier 16 (M16), the Eagle Nebula is a youthful cluster of stars nestled in the Serpens constellation. Its discovery traces back to Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux in the mid-18th century.

Serving as the nebula’s highlight, the Pillars of Creations are active star-forming regions, and truly a sight to behold.

Spanning 4 to 5 light-years, they may seem small against the expansive 70 by 55 light-year canvas of the Eagle Nebula, but they’re anything but insignificant.

Located a whopping 7,000 light-years from Earth, our star-cluster friend still manages to catch the eye. With an apparent magnitude of 6, amateur astronomers can spot it through a small telescope, especially in July.

For a detailed view of the Pillars of Creation, though, you’ll need a more powerful telescope and clear skies.

New perspectives, new insights

“By flying past and amongst the pillars, viewers experience their three-dimensional structure and see how they look different in the Hubble visible-light view versus the Webb infrared-light view,” explained Summers.

'Pillars of Creation' in new 3D video from NASA, seen here in Webb/Hubble mosaic. Credit: NASA
‘Pillars of Creation’ in new 3D video from NASA, seen here in Webb/Hubble mosaic. Credit: NASA

“The contrast helps them understand why we have more than one space telescope to observe different aspects of the same object.”

Piecing together the Pillars of Creation

The Pillars of Creation consist of cool molecular hydrogen and dust. They are constantly changing. This transformation happens because of harsh ultraviolet light emitted by nearby young stars. These stars also produce strong winds.

The ultraviolet light and winds impact the pillars, altering their structure.

As you delve deeper into the visualization, you’ll notice finger-like structures, larger than the solar system itself, protruding from the tops of the pillars. Concealed within these fingers are embryonic stars.

The tallest pillar stretches for an incredible three light-years, that’s three-quarters of the distance between our Sun and the nearest star.

Harbingers of star birth

The visualization also showcases various stages of star formation. As you approach the central pillar, you’ll see an infant protostar glowing bright red in infrared light.

Towards the top of the left pillar, you’ll spot a diagonal jet of material – a telltale sign of a newborn star. In the end, you’ll find a newly formed star gleaming at the tip of the left pillar’s protrusion.

Hubble telescope view of the Pillars of Creation. Credit: NASA
Hubble telescope view of the ‘Pillars of Creation’. Credit: NASA

The icing on the cake? You can now feel these cosmic marvels right in your palms. Thanks to the new 3D printable model of the Pillars of Creation, you can get a hands-on understanding of these nebulous structures.

This interactive tool gives you even more insights while making the experience more interesting.

Pillars of Creation beyond the screens

Want to dive deeper into the exploration of nebulas? Take a trip to one of the nearly 200 museums and planetariums across the United States running the ViewSpace video exhibit produced by NASA’s Universe of Learning. Here, you can discover more about the wondrous space images captured by telescopes.

The new visualization of the Pillars of Creation is more than just another scientific achievement. It represents an exciting new chapter in our exploration of the universe.

By blending scientific data, technical prowess, and human creativity, we’re now able to see our cosmos in new ways. We can now understand and appreciate its beauty like never before.

Inspiring future generations

One of the most profound impacts of these visualizations lies in their ability to engage the public and inspire future generations.

Educational programs and interactive exhibits at museums and planetariums transform complex scientific data into accessible formats that captivate audiences of all ages.

For instance, a 3D printable model provides a tactile learning experience, making the cosmos tangible. In classrooms worldwide, these resources spark curiosity and fuel young minds’ imaginations, potentially inspiring the next generation of astronomers, scientists, and engineers.

'Pillars of Creation' captured by Webb telescope. Credit: NASA
‘Pillars of Creation’ captured by Webb telescope. Credit: NASA

By demystifying the cosmos and fostering a sense of wonder, these initiatives contribute to a more scientifically literate society, appreciative of our universe’s beauty and complexity.

By presenting these intricate concepts in a digestible and engaging manner, we can encourage broader exploration and understanding.

What might we discover when we bridge the gap between complex scientific research and the everyday learner?

These initiatives not only illuminate the cosmos but also empower a more curious and scientifically informed public.

Beyond visualization

As a bonus, the visualization project has adapted the base model of the pillars to a 3D printable model. This interactive model allows the users to download the STL file and create a physical model using 3D printers.

So, embark on a cosmic journey with the new 3D visualization and 3D printable model of the Pillars of Creation. Deep dive into the beauty of these celestial structures, and witness the wonders of our universe from the comfort of your home!

Video Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


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