NASA has released stunningly detailed images of the Pillars of Creation taken by the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

 

What is ‘pillars of creation’?

  • The Pillars of Creation were first made famous when NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of them in 1995.
  • These pillars appear like rock formations – three towers of gas and dust which are more permeable than they look.
  • The Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16. The Eagle Nebula was discovered in 1745 by Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, and is located 6,500 light-years from the earth in the constellation Serpens.
  • According to NASA, the pillars resemble buttes in the desert. They are essentially very dense clouds of molecular hydrogen gas and dust that have survived longer than their surroundings while hot newborn stars in the vicinity (first pictured at the top of the pillars with the Hubble Telescope and visible even more clearly with JWST) throw ultraviolet light in their direction.

 

About the ‘James Webb Space Telescope’

  • JWST is a space telescope jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
  • It was launched on December 25, 2021, and is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
      • L2 is one of the five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system, which is directly behind Earth in the line joining the Sun and the Earth.
      • It is where the gravitational forces of the two large bodies cancel each other out and it would be shielded from the Sun as it goes around the Sun, in sync with the Earth.
      • Objects placed at these positions are relatively stable and require minimal external energy or fuel to keep themselves there and so many instruments are positioned here.

 

Goals

  • To look back around 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
  • To compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to todays grand spirals and understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
  • To see where stars and planetary systems are being born.
  • to observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (beyond the solar system) and perhaps find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe.