M16: A Star Forming Pillar from Webb

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2022 December 6
The featured image shows a large golden-brown pillar 
of dust surrounded by a few smaller pillars. 
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

M16: A Star Forming Pillar from Webb
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Processing & Copyright: Mehmet Hakan Özsaraç

Explanation: What’s happening inside this interstellar mountain? Stars are forming. The mountain is actually a column of gas and dust in the picturesque Eagle Nebula (M16). A pillar like this is so low in density that you could easily fly though it -- it only appears solid because of its high dust content and great depth. The glowing areas are lit internally by newly formed stars. These areas shine in red and infrared light because blue light is scattered away by intervening interstellar dust. The featured image was captured recently in near-infrared light in unprecedented detail by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launched late last year. Energetic light, abrasive winds, and final supernovas from these young stars will slowly destroy this stellar birth column over the next 100,000 years.

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