Incredible NASA video travels through the Pillars of Creation – Daily Mail

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  • This new NASA animation reveals the 3D structure of the Pillars of Creation
  •  Scientists combined images from the two most powerful space telescopes 

If you ever wanted to take a walk to deep space, this could be as close as you ever get.

In this stunning animation, NASA lets the viewer wander through the trunks of the ‘Pillars of Creation’ in a nebula 6,500 light years from Earth.

This is the most detailed and comprehensive video ever created of these star-birthing clouds, described as ‘towering tendrils’ of cosmic dust and gas. 

It’s made possible by combining observations from NASA’s two most powerful space telescopes, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Hubble Space Telescope.

And, with the JWST’s infrared spectrum, you can even peer inside the three light-year-tall pillars to see young stars being born.

What are the Pillars of Creation?  

Resembling a ghostly hand, the Pillars of Creation are towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas. 

They’re part of the Eagle Nebula – 6,500 light-years away from Earth – and are known for being a source of star formation. 

The nebula, discovered in 1745 by the Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, is located in the constellation Serpens. 


This groundbreaking animation captures for the first time the 3D structure of these vast formations, letting the viewer soar through light-years of space.

However, this is not merely an artist’s fanciful impression but a work of scientific research. 

Using observations taken by Anna McLeod, an associate professor at the University of Durham, NASA has been able to accurately reconstruct the arrangement of the pillars.

Rendered in 3D, you can clearly see that the pillars are not aligned, but are actually stretched over a large region of space.

Frank Summers, principal visualization scientist of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), says: ‘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.’

The pillars of creation are part of the Eagle Nebula, a structure just under 7000 light years from Earth – first observed by the Hubble Space Tesco in 1985. 

This image was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope in infrared light spectrum
This older image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and uses the visible light spectrum
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However, this latest animation combines photographs taken by Hubble with the latest observations from the JWST.

Not only does this render the pillars of creation in the highest detail ever captured, but it also provides a new perspective on the formation of stars like our own sun.

Each of the three pillars is composed of cool molecular hydrogen and clouds of interstellar dust.

Stretching up to free light years in length – three quarters of the way from our sun to the nearest star – these vast clouds make perfect stellar nurseries.

The Pillars of Creation 6,500 light years from us are in a regional space known as the Eagle Nebula

Thanks to the 3D animation, viewers can see that the pillars are not flat but are actually arranged throughout a large regional space

While the interior of these structures is hidden in the visible light spectrum, infrared light pierces through the thick dust.

Mr Summers says: ‘The contrast helps them understand why we have more than one space telescope to observe different aspects of the same object.’ 

Using the JWST to gather information in the infrared spectrum we are able to peer within the dust clouds to observe young stars in various stages of growth.

In the animation, you can see these as bright spots of light visible through the dust or shown clearly in the infrared spectrum.

the visible light spectrum shows clearly the clouds of dust and cool molecular hydrogen which makes up the Pillars of Creation

Infrared images allow scientists to look within the dust clouds to see Protostars in the early stages of formation

In one of the pillars, we can see a brand new star ejecting a plume of material into space while in the largest pillar a ‘protostar’ (a very young star that is still gathering mass) can be seen.

Mark Clampin, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, says: ‘When we combine observations from NASA’s space telescopes across different wavelengths of light, we broaden our understanding of the universe.

‘The Pillars of Creation region continues to offer us new insights that hone our understanding of how stars form. 

‘Now, with this new visualization, everyone can experience this rich, captivating landscape in a new way.’

The Pillars of Creation provides one of the most famous cosmic views in astronomical history   

The original Hubble Space Telescope image of the famous Pillars of Creation was taken two decades ago and immediately became one of its most famous and evocative pictures.

The jutting structures, along with the nearby star cluster, NGC 6611, are parts of a star formation region called the Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16 or M16.

Resembling a ghostly hand, the Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula - which is 6,500 light-years away from Earth - and are known for being a source of star formation

The nebula and its associated objects are located about 7000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens (The Serpent).

The Pillars of Creation are a classic example of the column-like shapes that develop in the giant clouds of gas and dust that are the birthplaces of new stars.

The columns arise when immense, freshly formed blue–white O and B stars give off intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds that blow away less dense materials from their vicinity.

Denser pockets of gas and dust, however, can resist this erosion for longer.

Behind such thicker dust pockets, material is shielded from the harsh, withering glare of O and B stars.

This shielding creates dark ‘tails’ or ‘elephant trunks’, which we see as the dusky body of a pillar, that point away from the brilliant stars. 

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