Image of the Day: “The Dark Angels”

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The ISAAC infrared images of the famous Pillars of Creation region of the Eagle Nebula, Messier 16, show a zoom into the centre with the infrared view of the "dark angel" columns and their immediate surroundings. In early 2007, scientists using the Spitzer discovered evidence that potentially indicates the Pillars were destroyed by a nearby supernova explosion about 6,000 years ago, but the light showing the new shape of the nebula will not reach Earth for another millennium.

A number of red objects can be seen associated with the pillars: some of these are just background sources seen through the dust, but some are probably real young stars embedded in the pillars. The purple arc near the bottom of the picture is Herbig-Haro object 216 , a fast-moving clump of heated gas emanating from a young star. star formation. The dark "angel" areas are believed to be protostars. The pillar structure of the region resembles that of a much larger star formation region, imaged with the Spitzer Space Telescope, in Cassiopeia, which has been dubbed the "Mountains of Creation."

Credit: ESO/M.McCaughrean & M.Andersen (AIP)

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