Universe Guide

What are the Pillars of Creation?

With a name like Pillars of Creation, you might think they are a monument to do with religion. The Pillars of Creation is the name given to a large interstellar cloud and dust region in the Eagle Nebula in the constellation of Serpens. In case you're wondering, it was so called because it looks like an eagle and has nothing to do with the constellation of Aquila, the eagle constellation .

It is so called because they're shaped like Pillars, no points for guessing that one. Creation comes from the fact that that stars are being created. Many billions of years ago, our own star, the Sun would be in a similar type area, not shape though. Its not possible to know what the dust and dirt cloud that our Sun came from looked like.

Whilst the Eagle Nebula is over 6,000 - 7,000 light years away, it can just about be seen with the naked eye. The object has an apparent magnitude of 6 where the dimmest object with the naked eye is 6.5. To really see the object, you should use binoculars or a telescope and go somewhere that is away from city lights. The best time of the year to see them is July. Although possible to see with binoculars, a large telescope is preferred. N.A.S.A.

The Pillars stretch an impressive 4 to 5 light years, to put that in context, the nearest star other than the Sun to us is Proxima Centauri which is about 4 light years. The Pillars themselves are only small compared to the size of the Eagle Nebula which is 70 by 55 Light Years.

The Eagle Nebula was first discovered by Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, a swiss astronomer in 1745. The nebula is also referred to as Messier 16 as it was the 16th item added to his list of objects Charles Messier compiled.

Photo of the Pillars of Creation by the Hubble Space Telescope

Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula

Location of the Pillars of Creation

Location of the Eagle Nebula in Serpens

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