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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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The Pillars of Creation Above Your Backyard

Have you ever thought about how deep the soil is below your backyard? Or how many species live side by side with you? Or how high the air extends into the sky? Or how far space extends above your little patch of ground?

This photo was taken by the Hubble telescope...one of the marvels of natural science exploration.

Gas Pillars in the Eagle Nebula (M16): Pillars of Creation in a Star-Forming Region

Stellar "Eggs" Emerge from Molecular Cloud: Closeup of Evaporating Globules in M16
Source: Hubblesite.org Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)

Gas Pillars in the Eagle Nebula (M16) are entitled "Pillars of Creation in a Star-Forming Region".

What an anomaly -- seemingly solid pillars floating in space. I wonder if our stone pillars look as solid to other creatures...

These eerie, dark pillar-like structures in the Eagle Nebula 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" (also called M16 — the 16th object in Charles Messier's 18th century catalog of "fuzzy" objects that aren't comets), a nearby star-forming region 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Serpens.

Can you imagine that in the 1700s someone was able to see these same ephemeral stalagmites? I find that timeline unfathomable!

Eerie, dramatic new pictures from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show newborn stars emerging from "eggs" — not the barnyard variety — but rather dense, compact pockets of interstellar gas called evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs). Hubble found the "EGGs," appropriately enough, in the Eagle nebula, a nearby star-forming region 6,500 light- years away in the constellation Serpens.

"For a long time astronomers have speculated about what processes control the sizes of stars — about why stars are the sizes that they are," said Jeff Hester of Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. "Now in M16 we seem to be watching at least one such process at work right in front of our eyes."

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). This process is called "photoevaporation."

This ultraviolet light is also responsible for illuminating the convoluted surfaces of the columns and the ghostly streamers of gas boiling away from their surfaces, producing the dramatic visual effects that highlight the three-dimensional nature of the clouds. The tallest pillar (left) is about about 4 light-years 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. These globules have been dubbed "EGGs." EGGs is an acronym for "Evaporating Gaseous Globules," but it is also a word that describes what these objects are. Forming inside at least some of the EGGs are embryonic stars — stars that abruptly stop growing when the EGGs are uncovered and they are separated from the larger reservoir of gas from which they were drawing mass. Eventually, the stars themselves emerge from the EGGs as the EGGs themselves succumb to photoevaporation.

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.

Read more about these natural phenomenon that linger above your backyard at the Hubblesite. Object Names: M16, Eagle Nebula, NGC 6611