Sunday, March 19, 2006

Spaced out Sundays

Underwater coral? Eerie stalagmites? A newly discovered sea creature? This spectacular picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows pillars of gas and dust in the star nursery M16 nebula (aka the Eagle Nebula). Originally, there was a large and exceptionally dense molecular hydrogen gas cloud, but the ultraviolet light from massive hot newborn stars has burned off much of the cloud, leaving these pillars behind (much the same way that erosion on Earth will eat away softer ground materials leaving behind protruding buttes). The taller column, from base to tip, is about 4 light years long (about 23,480,000,000,000 miles long, give or take 20 miles)

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