Nov 1, 2022 - Science

Pillars of Creation glow in stunning JWST photo

The Pillars of Creation. Towers of blue dust and gas stretch light-years into space

The Pillars of Creation from JWST. Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI/ Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

An image of the Pillars of Creation taken by the James Webb Space Telescope reveals the iconic towers of dust, gas and baby stars in a new light.

The big picture: This part of space was made famous when the Hubble Space Telescope first caught sight of it in 1995 and observed it again in 2014.

What's happening: The new JWST picture was taken using the telescope's Mid-Infrared Instrument which allows observers to see the dust and gas in this region of space in great detail.

  • "Many stars are actively forming in these dense blue-gray pillars," the Space Telescope Science Institute said in a statement. "When knots of gas and dust with sufficient mass form in these regions, they begin to collapse under their own gravitational attraction, slowly heat up – and eventually form new stars."
  • The Pillars of Creation are only a small part of the Eagle Nebula, which is located about 6,500 light-years away.

What's different: Another JWST photo of the Pillars of Creation, taken using the Near-Infrared Camera that captures a different part of the infrared spectrum, was released last week.

How it works: The JWST primarily looks out on the universe in infrared light, a wavelength invisible to the human eye.

  • Image processors on Earth take the data beamed down from the JWST and transform it into photos like these.
  • The telescope is so powerful that it can parse out one band of infrared light from another, allowing processors to assign those bands different, scientifically sound colors our eyes can see to produce these photos.
  • Red is assigned to the longer infrared bands while blue is assigned the shorter, with the other colors of the rainbow in between.
Go deeper