The James Webb Space Telescope team has released their latest snapshot of the Pillars of Creation, which strikes the perfect spooky, dusty tone for Halloween.
Unlike the star-filled, colorful photo of the astronomical wonder NASA released this month and captured with JWST’s near-infrared (NIRCam) camera, the latest image shows the pillars lifeless and gray, with few stars visible through a thick layer of dust .
The image was taken by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which, instead of taking pictures of near-infrared light, focuses on mid-spectrum infrared light, which NASA says is much better at picking up interstellar dust.
“Mid-infrared light specializes in showing exactly where dust is, [and] The stars are not bright enough at these wavelengths to appear,” NASA said.
The Pillars of Creation in mid-infrared light over MIRI… Source: NASA
What the image shows is a lot of very important dust, which is an important factor in star formation, and stars that are still in the process of formation, which can be recognized by their red hue in the MIRI photo.
“As knots of sufficient mass form in the gas and dust columns, they begin to collapse under their own gravity, slowly warm up, and eventually form new stars,” NASA said.
The NIRCam image shows stars throughout their formation cycles, as well as jets of energetic matter erupting from evolving stars, appearing near the ends of some pillars like “lava”. The stars that emit these flashes of light are estimated to be just a few hundred thousand years old.
The Pillars of Creation in near-infrared light via NIRCam
For those curious about the size of these red-hued baby stars, NASA has you covered: “Trace the top pillar and land on the bright red star sticking out of its bottom edge like a broomstick.” This star and its dusty shell are larger than the size of our entire solar system.”
The Pillars of Creation were first photographed in 1995 by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and again in 2014 in both visible and near-infrared light. While the pillars themselves are about four to five light-years across, they are just a small portion of the larger Eagle Nebula, which spans 70 by 55 light-years. The nebula itself is 6,500 light-years away.
Below is a video that will give you a better idea of where the pillars are.
NASA said photographs of the pillars taken at different wavelengths of light each give scientists more clues as to how stars form. The latest image, NASA said, is the highest mid-infrared resolution captured by the pillars and will “enable more precise dust measurements to create a more complete three-dimensional landscape of this distant region.” ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/31/pillars_of_creation_nasa/ Pillars of Creation look spooky in latest JWST photo • The Register