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The Pillars of Creation

The “Pillars of Creation” is a photograph taken by the Hubble Telescope of elephant trunks of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 7,000 light years from earth. They are named the Pillars of Creation because the gas and dust are in the process of forming and creating new stars, while also being eroded by the light from nearby stars that have recently formed.

The pillars are composed of cool, molecular hydrogen and dust that are being eroded by photo-evaporation from the ultraviolet light of relatively close and hot stars. The leftmost pillar is about four light years in length. The finger like protrusions at the top of the clouds are larger than our solar system.

pillars of creation in space

The Pillars of Creation

Images taken with the telescope uncovered a cloud of hot dust in the vicinity of the pillars that one science group interpreted to be a shock wave produced by a supernova. The appearance of the cloud suggests a supernova that would have been seen on Earth as exploding somewhere between 1000 and 2000 years ago, and will hit and destroy the pillars in another 1000 years. Given the distance of roughly 6000 light years to the Pillars of Creation, this would mean that they have actually already been destroyed, but because of the finite speed of light, this destruction is not yet visible on Earth, but should be visible in the next 1000 years.

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