As if the Pillars of Creation could become more iconic.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a new vision of a famous celestial spectacle: the stunning star-forming region known as the Pillars of Creation.
The image, teeming with newborn stars and revealing new details of the region’s eerie dust and gas spiers, was released Wednesday. It is the latest cosmic portrait of the Webb observatory, based on the already impressive collection of the telescope.
David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute, called Webb’s new image “simply spectacular beyond words.”
“Oh. My. Universe.” he tweeted.
The Pillars of Creation lie at the heart of a stellar nursery known as the Eagle Nebula, or Messier 16, which is approximately 6,500 light-years from Earth.
They form a familiar scene: the thin towers of gas and dust, which resemble rock formations, were captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, then again in 2014. In the new view of the Webb observatory, the sculpted columns appear less opaque, as Webb’s infrared instruments can penetrate through some of the dust to reveal more stars in the newly formed region.
The young stars, estimated to be only a few hundred thousand years old, are the bright red spheres in the image. New stars form inside clouds of dust and gas as dense lumps of mass collapse under their own gravity and begin to heat up.
The Webb telescope has captured this dynamic journey underway, according to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate.
“Do you see those wavy lines that look like lava at the edges of the pillars? These are little stars forming inside the gas and dust”, he tweeted.
Observations from the Webb telescope can help astronomers better understand the star formation process and refine their models of how newborn stars emerge from interstellar gas clouds, NASA said.
The tennis court-sized observatory is equipped with instruments that detect distant stars and galaxies in infrared and near infrared light. This allows Webb to probe beyond the range of human sight and capture details invisible to other telescopes, including Hubble, which primarily detect visible light.
The $ 10 billion Webb observatory was launched into space on December 25 last year. The first batch of images from the observatory was released in July and these first scientific operations have already revealed tantalizing new details about the universe.
This article was originally posted on NBCNews.com