New image of iconic Eagle Nebula released

Jan. 17, 2012 at 4:11 PM

PARIS, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency has released a new picture of a star-forming region of the universe featured in one of the 20th century's most iconic images.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of the Eagle Nebula in 1995 that was dubbed the "Pillars of Creation," showing giant pillars of dust and gas thought to contain new stars being formed. However, Hubble's visible light picture was unable to see inside and prove that young stars were indeed being born there.

Now two ESA orbiting observatories and ground telescopes have combined to create an image using visible light, infrared light and X-rays, allowing astronomers to see inside the pillars and observe the young stars inside, a release from ESA's Paris headquarters said Tuesday.

The new image combines data from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, its XMM-Newton X-ray telescope and two ground-based telescopes in Chile.

While ground-based telescopes can provide astonishing views of the universe, images in far-infrared, mid-infrared and X-ray wavelengths are impossible to obtain owing to the absorbing effects of Earth's atmosphere.

This demonstrates the importance of space-based observatories in adding to astronomers' knowledge of the life cycle of stars, ESA said.

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