West News Wire: According to NASA, the enormous pillars of gas and dust packed with stars known as the Pillars of Creation have been photographed by the largest and most potent satellite telescope in the world.

The massive columns of gold, copper, and brown that stand within the expansive Eagle Nebula, 6,500 light years from Earth, have been captured in the first image by the James Webb Space Telescope, according to a statement released by the US space agency on Wednesday.

The Pillars were initially photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 1995.

Webb, a more recent telescope that was sent into orbit less than a year ago, can see through the Pillars’ obscurity to see young stars emerging because of its infrared capabilities.

The Webb images show bright red, lava-like spots at the ends of several Pillars. “These are ejections from stars that are still forming,” only a few hundred thousand years old, NASA said.

These “young stars periodically shoot out supersonic jets that collide with clouds of material, like these thick pillars,” it added.

“By popular demand, we had to do the Pillars of Creation,” Klaus Pontoppidan, science programme manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), said on Twitter.

STScI operates Webb from Baltimore, Maryland.

“There are just so many stars!” Pontoppidan added.

NASA astrophysicist Amber Straughn summed it up: “The universe is beautiful!” she wrote on Twitter.

The image, covering an area of about eight light years, was taken by Webb’s primary imager NIRCam, which captures near-infrared wavelengths invisible to the human eye.

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The colours of the image have been “translated” into visible light.

According to NASA, the new image “will help researchers revamp their models of star formation by identifying far more precise counts of newly formed stars, along with the quantities of gas and dust in the region.”

They also said that “each advanced instrument offers researchers new details about this region, which is practically overflowing with stars.”

Operational since July, Webb is the most powerful space telescope ever built and has already unleashed a raft of unprecedented data. Scientists are hopeful it will herald a new era of discovery.

One of the main goals of the $10bn telescope is to study the life cycle of stars. Another main research focus is on exoplanets, planets outside Earth’s solar system.


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