(CNN) – The James Webb Space Telescope took a look at the dark side of the ethereal Pillars of Creation, located 6,500 light-years away in the Eagle Nebula.
Last week, the space observatory showed a fascinating near-infrared view of the famous constellations, which consist of interstellar gas and dust and glow with young stars.
The 3D structures are as massive as they look, measuring about 5 light-years in diameter. (A light year equals about 6 billion kilometres.)
In Webb’s latest image, which captured the iconic feature in mid-infrared light, the velvety gray dust evokes a tangled tangle of ghostly hues hopping across the cosmos. The stars are hidden by dust, but some of them cut through the darkness with red light.
It’s a completely new perspective on the celestial scene he first observed The Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 And again in 2014.
Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, making Webb our detective who can spy on otherwise hidden aspects of the universe. The new image, taken by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI, captures more details about the dust and the structure of the plumes.
Although thousands of stars have formed within the pillars and often shine as a central feature, starlight is undetectable in mid-infrared light. Instead, the MIRI instrument can only see the tiniest stars that haven’t shaken off their dusty atmosphere and that shine like sapphires in the image. For their part, the blue stars in the scene represent the oldest stars that separated from the layers of gas and dust.
Webb’s mid-infrared capability can capture details of gas and dust in the plumes and the surrounding area. In the background of the image, areas of dense dust are shown in grey, while the red horizon-like region is where the cooler and more widespread dust persists.
Unlike many of Webb’s recent images, there are no background galaxies that shine because their distant light is unable to pass through them.
The mid-infrared perspective of the pillars of creation will allow researchers to better understand the process of star formation over millions of years in this stellar nursery.
Other telescopes, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope, have observed plumes at different wavelengths. Each new look at the iconic landscape reveals new aspects, more details, and accurate measurements of the gas, dust, and stars within, providing a better understanding of this impressive region.
“Proud web fanatic. Subtly charming twitter geek. Reader. Internet trailblazer. Music buff.”