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Astonishing new picture of 60 trillion mile long 'star nursery' – which actually ceased existing 6000 years ago

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Pillars-230THE casual observer might mistake it for a study by Turner – but see those 'clouds' circled? They're actually interstellar gas clouds 60 trillion miles long.

And the weird thing is that they were blown to bits 6000 years ago, about the time human beings were starting to domesticate animals (or that God created the earth, if you're a Creationist).

The image is the newest deep space photograph of the famous 'Pillars of Creation', a star nursery in the Eagle nebula.

It was taken by the Herschel Space Observatory captured in long-wavelength infrared light.

The shot is a more expanded version of the now iconic photograph of the nebula 6,500 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens,  which was taken in 1995 by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The nebula is so far away and the infrared light has taken so long to reach us that most astronomers believe the Pillars are long gone – destroyed by a nearby supernova about 6000 years ago.

But, 6,500 years ago at least, the nebula contained a young, hot star cluster, NGC6611 (now visible with good binoculars), which is sculpting and illuminating the surrounding gas and dust. The result is a huge, hollowed-out cavity and pillars, each several light-years long.

The new Herschel pic (courtesy NASA)


The new image allows astronomers to see inside the pillars and structures in the region and get a better understanding of the creative and destructive forces inside the Eagle nebula.

The small, dark areas within the two pillars (circled) are believed to be 'protostars'.

The pillar structure of the region resembles that of a much larger star formation region. They are composed of interstellar hydrogen gas and dust, which act as incubators for new stars.   The longest of the 'Pillars' is seven light years long.

The iconic 1995 Hubble pic (courtesy NASA)


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