Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Famous Space Pillars Feel The Heat Of Star's Explosion

Date:
January 11, 2007
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
The three iconic space pillars photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 might have met their demise, according to new evidence from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. A new, striking image from Spitzer shows the intact dust towers next to a giant cloud of hot dust thought to have been scorched by the blast of a star that exploded, or went supernova.

Infrared view of the Eagle nebula, with an inset of Hubble's view of the same area.
Credit: Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale

The three iconic space pillars photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 might have met their demise, according to new evidence from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

A new, striking image from Spitzer shows the intact dust towers next to a giant cloud of hot dust thought to have been scorched by the blast of a star that exploded, or went supernova. Astronomers speculate that the supernova's shock wave could have already reached the dusty towers, causing them to topple about 6,000 years ago. However, because light from this region takes 7,000 years to reach Earth, we won't be able to capture photos of the destruction for another 1,000 years or so.

Spitzer's view of the region shows the entire Eagle nebula, a vast and stormy community of stars set amid clouds and steep pillars made of gas and dust, including the three well-known "Pillars of Creation."

"I remember seeing a photograph of these pillars more than a decade ago and being inspired to become an astronomer," said Nicolas Flagey of The Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in France. "Now, we have discovered something new about this region we thought we understood so well." Flagey, a visiting graduate student at NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, presented the results today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Astronomers have long predicted that a supernova blast wave would mean the end for the popular pillars. The region is littered with 20 or so stars ripe for exploding, so it was only a matter of time, they reasoned, before one would blow up. The new Spitzer observations suggest one of these stellar time bombs has in fact already detonated, an event humans most likely witnessed 1,000 to 2,000 years ago as an unusually bright star in the sky.

Whenever the mighty pillars do crumble, gas and dust will be blown away, exposing newborn stars that were forming inside. A new generation of stars might also spring up from the dusty wreckage.

Spitzer is a space telescope that detects infrared, longer-wavelength light that our eyes cannot see. This allows the observatory to both see the dust and see through it, depending on which infrared wavelength is being observed. In Spitzer's new look at the Eagle nebula, the three pillars appear small and ghostly transparent. They are colored green in this particular view. In the largest of the three columns, an embedded star is seen forming inside the tip.

Above the pillars is the enormous cloud of hot dust, colored red in the picture, which astronomers think was seared by the blast wave of a supernova explosion. Flagey and his team say evidence for this scenario comes from similarities observed between this hot dust and dust around known supernova remnants. The dust also appears to have a shell-like shape, implying that a supernova blast wave is traveling outward and sculpting it.

The mysterious dust was first revealed in previous images from the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory, but Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared instrument was able to tentatively match the dust to a supernova event.

"Something else besides starlight is heating this dust," said Dr. Alberto Noriega-Crespo, Flagey's advisor at the Spitzer Science Center. "With Spitzer, we now have the missing long-wavelength infrared data that are giving us an answer."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Spitzer's infrared array camera and multiband imaging photometer made the new observations. The infrared array camera was built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The instrument's principal investigator is Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The multiband imaging photometer for Spitzer was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation, Boulder, Colo.; the University of Arizona; and Boeing North American, Canoga Park, Calif. Its principal investigator is Dr. George Rieke of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

For additional graphics and more information about Spitzer, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer or http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Famous Space Pillars Feel The Heat Of Star's Explosion." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070111093307.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2007, January 11). Famous Space Pillars Feel The Heat Of Star's Explosion. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070111093307.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Famous Space Pillars Feel The Heat Of Star's Explosion." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070111093307.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins