7000 light years away from our own Milky Way Galaxy, in the constellation Serpens Cauda, lies the familiar Eagle Nebula. It is comprised of M16, an open star cluster, and IC 4703, a large, diffuse emission Nebula. The iconic “Pillars of Creation” is a familiar sight to many due to the 1995 Hubble Telescope image, and can be seen at the center of this image. The “Spire” can also be seen to the left of the “Pillars”. These areas have been thought to be active star forming regions, but recent evidence from the Chandra X-Ray Telescope, show that the most active star forming areas do not coincide with the Pillars. There is evidence that star formation in the pillars peaked over 1 million years ago. There are still many protostars in the region.
In January of 2007, a team using the Spitzer Infrared Telescope, discovered that a Supernova in the vicinity of M16 most likely has already blown away the pillars. (“Famous Space Pillars Feel the Heat of Star's Explosion”, NASA Press Release, January 7, 2007) A large dust cloud, that appears to be powered by a Supernova, can be seen moving toward the pillars in the infrared spectrum. Since we are 7000 light years away, and the reported supernova is estimated to have taken place 6000 years ago, we will not be able to visually confirm the pillars destruction for another 1000 years…still plenty of time to enjoy them!
(Image appears in "Sky and Telescopes" 2009 special edition of "Beautiful Universe")
Location: Starlodge Observatory
Date: June, 2008
Camera: SBIG STL 11000
Telescope: CDK 12.5