The Eagle Nebula, Up Close

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Behold: a rather extraordinary image of the star cluster of Messier 16, aka NGC 6611, aka ‘The Eagle Nebula’, surrounded by natal clouds of dust and glowing gas. To wit:

This beautifully detailed image of the region adopts the colourful Hubble palette and includes cosmic sculptures made famous in Hubble Space Telescope close-ups of the star-forming complex. Described as ‘elephant trunks’ or ‘Pillars of Creation’, dense, dusty columns rising near the centre are light years in length but are gravitationally contracting to form stars. Energetic radiation from the cluster stars erodes material near the tips, eventually exposing the embedded new stars. Extending from the ridge of bright emission left of centre is another dusty star-forming column known as the Fairy of Eagle Nebula. M16 lies about 7,000 light-years away, an easy target for binoculars or small telescopes in a nebula rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda (‘the tail of the snake’).

(ImageIgnacio Diaz Bobillo)

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