NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 15 May 2023: The mesmerizing Eagle Nebula
Today’s NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day is a snapshot of M16, also known as the Eagle Nebula which spans about 20 light-years across.
On a daily basis, NASA leaves us mesmerized with mind-blowing pictures of outer space that its massive telescopes on the ground and up in the sky keep taking. And today is no exception, with the awe-inspiring Eagle Nebula refreshing our jaded spirits. A nebula is a star-birthing region - yes, stars are born, age, and die too - located in Interstellar space, which is the space between stars. It consists of gases, mainly hydrogen, and helium. Although most nebulae belong to just three types - spherical, elliptical, and bipolar, some of them might be irregularly shaped, so much so that they resemble objects on Earth. Some of the most peculiar shapes include the Headphone Nebula, the Heart and Soul Nebula, and the Flying Ghost Nebula. According to NASA, a Nebula can contain as few as ten stars or as many as millions of stars.
Today's NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day is a snapshot of M16, also known as the Eagle Nebula which spans about 20 light-years across. The nebula, discovered in 1745 by the Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Cheseaux, is located 7,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens, according to NASA.
What we really found to be mind-boggling is the active part of this star-forming region. It has dense columns at the center known as the Pillars of Creation! These structures are light-years in length, but amazingly, they are slowly contracting gravitationally to form stars.
This awesome picture was captured by astrophotographer Gianni Lacroce.
NASA's description of the picture
From afar, the whole thing looks like an eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity, tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust.
The Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16, lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years, and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of the Serpent (Serpens). This picture involved long and deep exposures and combined three specific emitted colors emitted by sulfur (colored as yellow), hydrogen (red), and oxygen (blue).
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