The Eagle

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)

This eagle is a nursery for new stars. In this dramatic image from the Hubble Space Telescope taken in 1995, the baby stars are being born from eggs, small pockets of gas and dust. These columns of dust, like stalagmites in a cave are light years long. The Eagle Nebula, or M-16, is about 7,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Serpens, the Serpent.

A light year is the time it takes light to travel in a year, about 6 trillion miles (that’s 12 zeros behind the 6). The distances in space are so huge that scientists break down the big numbers into easier chunks making it easier for us to imagine the distances. It takes light almost 9 minutes just to reach Earth from the sun. The closest star is four light years away, so a trip to the Eagle Nebula would be a long one.

Credit: MPG/ESO 2.2-meter Telescope at La Silla, Chile

Credit: MPG/ESO 2.2-meter Telescope at La Silla, Chile

The nebula get its name from its overall shape to astronomers looking through telescopes on Earth. In this case, the nebula looks like flying eagle with talons.

The dark areas in the upper right aren’t big bite marks. The images from Hubble Space Telescope are actually made up of many smaller images. The dark areas are places where Hubble did not take an image.

Does the Eagle Nebula look like anything else to you?

Leave a Reply


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
Read More

Latest Comments

Warning: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, function 'print_my_script' not found or invalid function name in /home/starrycritters/public_html/site/wp-includes/class-wp-hook.php on line 286