22 January 2017 | The Eagle Nebula

M16 The Eagle Nebula

Image credit & copyright: Jacek Bobowik | Click image to enlarge

Image Data

  • Date: July/August 2016
  • Location: Tarnobrzeg, Poland
  • Camera: SBIG ST-8300M
  • Optics: Orion Optics UK CT8
  • Mount: Losmandy G11 FS2 ESCAP
  • Filters: Baader 7nm Ha, 8.5nm OIII, 8nm SII
  • Exposure: Ha 27 x 900s 1×1, OIII 20 x 900s 2×2, SII 15 x 900s 2×2

The Eagle Nebula (Messier 16) is located some 7,000 light-years away from Earth in the northern constellation of Serpens Cauda (Serpent’s Tail). It contains several evaporating dust sculptures, such as the Spire and the Pillars of Creation. In fact, the Eagle Nebula is a giant evaporating shell of gas and dust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars.

Stars in the Eagle Nebula are born in clouds of cold hydrogen gas that reside in chaotic neighborhoods, where energy from young stars sculpts fantasy-like landscapes in the gas. Some of those stars may have been created by dense gas collapsing under gravity. Other stars may be forming due to pressure from gas that has been heated by the neighboring hot stars.

The first wave of stars may have started forming before the massive star cluster began venting its scorching light. The star birth may have begun when denser regions of cold gas started collapsing under their own weight to make stars.

The bumps and fingers of material in the center of the tower are examples of these star-forming areas. The fledgling stars continued to grow as they fed off the surrounding gas cloud. They abruptly stopped growing when light from the star cluster uncovered their gaseous cradles, separating them from their gas supply.

The young cluster’s intense starlight may be inducing star formation in some regions of the Nebula. The stars heat gas and create a shock front, as seen by the bright rims of material. As the heated gas expands, it acts like a battering ram, pushing against the darker cold gas. The intense pressure compresses the gas, making it easier for stars to form. This scenario may continue as the shock front moves forward.

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