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JWST's New Image Of The Pillars Of Creation Is A Halloween Masterpiece

The extraordinary features look stunning even in longer wavelengths.

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockOct 28 2022, 16:04 UTC
Two finger-like structures that seem to be made out of smoke stand stark against a red background
Portion of the Pillars of Creation from JWST's MIRI. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; J. DePasquale (STScI), A. Pagan (STScI), A. Koekemoer (STScI)

The Pillars of Creations have always brought awe and amazement to both astronomers and the general public. These light-years-long structures are the birthplace of many new stars and they always look incredible. JWST's recent image in near-infrared is not just beautiful but allows us to peel back some of the dust layers to see the many stars in the region just beyond. But in this newly released image in mid-infrared, the cooler gas is the centerpiece, making this structure look ghostly, just in time for Halloween.

The difference between this image and the previous JWST portrait of the Pillars is stark. The NIRCam (near-infrared) image is full of stars while this new one by the MIRI cam (mid-infrared instrument) is almost heavy with the lack of. The stars seen are the youngest in this field. They are the ones still surrounded by thick layers of gas. The blue stars on the scene are the opposite. They are older stars that have shed their outer layers. 

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Two finger-like structures that seem to be made out of smoke stand stark against a red background compared to the starry version in near-infrared.
Comparison between the two observationf by JWST. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; J. DePasquale (STScI), A. Pagan (STScI), A. Koekemoer (STScI), gif by IFLScience


The darkest shades of gray are the densest part of the gas clouds, and the red background is the interstellar gas of the Milky Way, which is not dense enough to block all light but dense enough to make distant galaxies disappear. 

The Pillars of Creation are located within the Eagle Nebula, a large gas cloud in the Milky Way that is 6,500 light-years from Earth.


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