Chandra Gives Another Look at the Pillars of Creation

Eagle Nebula (M16). Image credit: Hubble/ChandraProbably the most famous photograph every taken by the Hubble Space Telescope is of the “Pillars of Creation”; a star forming region inside the Eagle Nebula (aka M16). Astronomers have wanted to know just how much star formation is actually going on inside the nebula.

One of Hubble’s co-Great Observatories, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, has observed the region too, and is helping answer that question. The attached photograph is a composite between the original Hubble photograph overlaid with data from Chandra. The bright multicoloured spots in the photograph are sources of X-rays, such as stars.

If you’ll notice, there are plenty of X-ray sources around the photograph, but almost none inside the pillars themselves. What’s going on? It’s possible that there aren’t any stars in there at all, but infrared observations have found infant stellar objects, including 4 large enough to form stars. Another possibility is that the stars inside the pillars are so young, they haven’t gotten to the point that they’re generating X-rays yet.

Original Source: Chandra News Release