Located about 7,000 light-years away from Earth, the so-called Eagle Nebula (aka Messier 16) is a young open cluster of stars. It was discovered over 250 years ago by Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux. The nebula is also located in the constellation Serpens.
Thanks to NASA’s new Picture of the Day for May 15, we can take another good look at the Eagle Nebula.
'M16: Eagle Nebula Deep Field' image from the #NASA_Apphttps://t.co/gZWbEhpB95#Astrophotography #astronomy #space #Nebula pic.twitter.com/jPbowqs4J0
— Swetilein (@Swetilein1) May 15, 2023
The nebula gained a lot of attention from astronomers for its iconic image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, showcasing towering pillars of gas and dust amidst vibrant regions that form stars.
The Eagle Nebula spans about 70 light-years in its diameter, which means that it’s nothing in size compared to our Milky Way galaxy. It’s also part of a larger region of active star formation within the Milky Way galaxy. It is home to a cluster of young stars known as the “Star Queen Cluster” or “M16 Cluster,” which illuminates the surrounding nebula with radiation.
NASA explained regarding the image:
From afar, the whole thing looks like an eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity, tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust.
Hopefully, humanity will have the right technology one day to be able to reach the Eagle Nebula physically. Who knows what exciting wonders the nebula might harbor? Science advances at an incredible level, at least when it comes to astronomy, which means that practically, we can expect anything.