Posts Tagged ‘eagle nebula’

Glowing Eagle

Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger

A glowing eagle soars upward in this far-infrared image of the Eagle Nebula from ESA’s Herschel Telescope.

Zoom into the intricate tendrils of gas and sculptures of dust surrounding M16 or the Eagle Nebula. Leave a note below in the comments and tell us what stories you see?

In visible light, the Eagle Nebula shines as ultraviolet radiation from hot stars cause gas in the nebula to glow. A hot, young star cluster known as NGC 6611 is sculpting the cloud. The dark dust of the Pillars of Creation stand in contrast to the bright light of the inner cavity. The “Pillars” make up the main shape of the eagle.

Many stories of star birth and star death play out as we combine light from different sources. We can see the birth of new stars, peer deep into cold nebulae and even get a glimpse of supernovae in the making.

The Eagle Nebula is found about 6,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Serpens, the Serpent.

Astronomers combined both ends of the spectrum for this image. Using this light, the pillars stand out with their own light. Using far-infrared data from Herschel and X-ray observations from XMM-Newton’s X-Ray Telescope, scientists see hot young stars and the cold dust that surrounds them. This gives us a view of the cosmos that we can’t see on Earth because the atmosphere blocks that light.

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Ink Blobs

Credit: NASA, ESA

Ink blobs blot out the glow of the surrounding nebula in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the blobs, stars and glowing gas in this small part of the the Eagle Nebula. What other shapes or stories do you see in the nebula? Leave a note below.

The Eagle Nebula, found about 6,500 light-years from Earth, is home to a stunning array of celestial wonders. The gigantic nebula is a huge star-making factory. Pillars of gas and dust are the birthplace of new stars and star clusters. The collection of dazzling stars in this image is part of an open star cluster called NGC 6611. The cluster was born out of the surrounding cloud only about 5.5 million years ago, making it very young in astronomical terms. The bright blue stars in the nebula are very hot, sending out a torrent of searing ultraviolet radiation that causes the surrounding nebula to glow. Astronomers refer to these regions of gas and dust as HII regions, shorthand for areas of red-glowing, ionized hydrogen gas.

Look for the inky clouds floating between us and the background nebula. Astronomers call these Bok globules. Astronomers can’t see through these small, cold clouds of interstellar gas and dust. Astronomer Bart Bok first observed these dark blobs of dust in the 1940s. Later theories described the clouds as being similar to insect cocoons. Gravity was pulling the gas and dust together in compact clouds to form new stars. New infrared observations showing warm bodies inside these clouds offer some evidence that this occurring.

Ink Smears

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Dark inky clouds smear the cosmic canvas of the Eagle Nebula in this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the dark pillars among the swaths of gas and dust. What shapes do you see in this image? Leave us a note with your story below. This part of the nebula is far from the center and most notable region of the nebula, the Pillars of Creation.

The Eagle Nebula, also known as M16 and NGC 6611 is a huge star-making factory. Dark regions in front of the bright parts of the nebula may one day be home to new stars. When clouds of gas and dust are compressed, gravity brings the material closer together. When conditions are just right, the nebula may begin to glow from its own heat and a star is born.

The bright, young stars in the image form an open star cluster that was born from the surrounding nebula. Ultraviolet radiation streaming from these stars warms the surrounding gas and dust and causes it to glow. The bright star cluster was discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. But the fainter nebula waited another 20 years before French astronomer Charles Messier noted it. Messier noted many other objects in the night sky. He cataloged 110 objects to help astronomical observers find objects, such as comets, among the permanent objects in the night sky.

The Eagle Nebula is found about 7,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Serpens Cauda, the tail of the serpent. This constellation is found within the brightest parts of the Milky Way among the constellations Sagittarius, Aquila and Ophiuchus.

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?

Dragons behind the Pillars

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

There be dragons in the “Pillars of Creation.”

We’ve looked at this nebula called the Eagle Nebula before. But come back to an image over time and new things appear. This image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope, is part of the Eagle Nebula, or M16. A bright star marks the eye of a dragon seemingly looking away from us.

This area of the Milky Way is a huge star producing area. At the tip of the head of the dragon are EGGs, short for evaporating gaseous globules. EGGs are dense, compact pockets of interstellar gas and dust. And they seem to be perfect for making stars.

The Eagle Nebula created its first stars only about 3 million years ago. EGGs are formed when these hot, young stars heat up the surface of the pillars causing the gas to boil away into space. Astronomers call this photoevaporation. When you zoom in closer, you can see the streamers flowing away from the edges of the columns. Not all the gas evaporates at the same rate and EGGs, which are denser, are left behind. As more and more material clumps together, gravity can start to pull it together. When it clumps tightly enough, the cloud can collapse under its own weight and nuclear fusion reactions can start at the core. A new star is born. Because photoevaporation burns away this gas and dust, some of these EGGs may not finish growing enough to make new stars. This image shows many EGGs caught in this situation.

Some EGGs appear as tiny bumps but others resemble fingers sticking out from the gas. Can you find any EGGs that have completely pinched off from the pillars, hanging like teardrops in the nebula? Maybe you see other shapes in the Eagle Nebula.

The Eagle Nebula is located about 6,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Serpens, the serpent.


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...
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