NASA’s giant telescope captures clearer view of ‘Pillars of Creation’

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a new view of an iconic cosmic site: the region known as the “Pillars of Creation,” where stars are born.

The U.S. space agency’s Hubble Space Telescope first photographed the structure in 1995, revealing its columns of gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula star nursery 6,500 light-years away. It became one of the most famous Hubble photos.

In the new image, the Webb telescope’s near-infrared camera cut through the dust to see the stars more clearly — “like never before,” as NASA put it.

These youngsters are estimated to be “only a few hundred thousand years,” the agency said Wednesday.

Stars come from collapsing clouds of interstellar material: Clumps of mass that form within the pillars of gas and dust begin to collapse under their own gravity, slowly heat up, and form new stars.

“See those wavy lines that look like lava at the edges of the pillars? These are baby stars that are forming within the gas & dust,” tweeted Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

From about a million miles from Earth, the Webb telescope is peering deeper into space.

The $10 billion telescope, which launched last Christmas day, is a joint effort with the European and Canadian space agencies. Its name drew criticism when some scientists argued former NASA leader James Webb was complicit in discrimination of LGBTQ employees between the ’40s and ’60s, but NASA said it found no evidence to warrant renaming the telescope.

The telescope’s ability to capture wavelengths of light inaccessible to its predecessor, the Hubble, has allowed NASA to revisit images from space in greater detail, sometimes puzzling astronomers. It has delivered new observations of faraway galaxies, and cosmic photos of Jupiter, a giant asteroid and a newly discovered comet.

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