Undersea corral? Enchanted castles? Space serpents? These eerie, dark pillar-like structures are actually columns of cool interstellar hydrogen gas and dust that are also incubators for new stars. The pillars protrude from the interior wall of a dark molecular cloud like stalagmites from the floor of a cavern. They are part of the "Eagle Nebula" a nearby star-forming region 7,000 light-years away in the constellation Serpens. The pillars are in some ways akin to buttes in the desert, where basalt and other dense rock have protected a region from erosion, while the surrounding landscape has been worn away over millennia. In this celestial case, it is especially dense clouds of molecular hydrogen gas (two atoms of hydrogen in each molecule) and dust that have survived longer than their surroundings in the face of a flood of ultraviolet
light from hot, massive newborn stars (off the top edge of the picture). The tallest pillar (left) is about a light-year long from base to tip. As the pillars themselves are slowly eroded away by the ultraviolet light, small globules of even denser gas buried within the pillars are uncovered.
The picture was taken on April 1, 1995 with the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The color image is constructed from three separate images taken in the light of emission from different types of atoms. Red shows emission from singly-ionized sulfur atoms. Green shows emission from hydrogen. Blue shows light emitted by doubly- ionized oxygen atoms.
But don't think it is just a little "object", actually it is a very, very little part of an immense composition of clouds! See the picture below!

This majestic view taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope tells an untold story of life and death in the above mentioned Eagle nebula, an industrious star-making factory located 7,000 light-years away. The image shows the region's entire network of turbulent clouds and newborn stars in infrared light. The color green denotes cooler towers and fields of dust, including the three famous space pillars, dubbed the "Pillars of Creation," which were photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 (right of center).
But it is the color red that speaks of the drama taking place in this region. Red represents hotter dust thought to have been warmed by the explosion of a massive star about 8,000 to 9,000 years ago. Since light from the Eagle nebula takes 7,000 years to reach us, this "supernova" explosion would have appeared as an oddly bright star in our skies about 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.
According to astronomers' estimations, the explosion's blast wave would have spread outward and toppled the three pillars about 6,000 years ago (which means we wouldn't witness the destruction for another 1,000 years or so). The blast wave would have crumbled the mighty towers, exposing newborn stars that were buried inside, and triggering the birth of new ones.

This photo shows the famous "Horsehead Nebula", which is situated in the Orion molecular cloud complex. The distance to the region is about 1400 light-years (430 pc).
This beautiful colour image was produced from three images.
There is obviously a wealth of detail, and scientific information can be derived from the colours shown in this photo. Three predominant colours are seen in the image: red from the hydrogen (H-alpha) emission from the HII region; brown for the foreground obscuring dust; and blue-green for scattered starlight.
The blue-green regions of the Horsehead Nebula correspond to regions not shadowed from the light from the stars in the H II region to the top of the picture and scatter stellar radiation towards the observer; these are thus `mountains' of dust. The Horse's `mane' is an area in which there is less dust along the line-of-sight and the background (H-alpha) emission from ionized hydrogen atoms can be seen through the foreground dust.
At this high resolution image the Horsehead appears very chaotic with many wisps and filaments and diffuse dust. At the top of the figure there is a bright rim separating the dust from the HII region. This is an `ionization front' where the ionizing photons from the HII region are moving into the cloud, destroying the dust and the molecules and heating and ionizing the gas.
Such structures are only temporary as they are being constantly eroded by the expanding region of ionized gas and are destroyed on timescales of typically a few thousand years. The Horsehead as we see it today will therefore not last forever and minute changes will become observable as the time passes.



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