A Decade of Discovery HubbleSite
Telescope & Science
Investigating Space Photos
The Hubble Story Video

Eagle Nebula The Vault

The three columns of dust and gas in this Hubble Space Telescope image are located in the Eagle Nebula, a nearby star-forming region 7,000 light-years away in the constellation Serpens. The tallest pillar of cool hydrogen gas and dust (on the left) is about a light-year long. In many ways, these eerie-looking structures could be compared to desert buttes, which were formed by erosion. In this case, though, ultraviolet light from hot, massive newborn stars (off the top edge of the picture) sculpted the columns in a process called "photoevaporation." As the ultraviolet light slowly erodes away the pillars, small globules of even denser gas emerge from within the columns themselves. These globules, called EGGs for Evaporating Gaseous Globules, are actually the birthplace of embryonic stars. However, the same process that sculpted the columns will eventually cut off their food source, and these embryonic stars will eventually succumb to photoevaporation and stop evolving.


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