Astronomers have produced a three-dimensional view of the Pillars of Creation that has bedazzled earthlings ever since Hubble photographed it twenty years ago. This famous structure is composed of interstellar gas and dust and is located within the Eagle Nebula.
According to the European Southern Observatory, which produced the photo using the MUSE instrument on the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (yes, it’s really named that), the three-dimensional view of the Pillars of Creation provides new insights into how they came into being, the direction they are pointing, and how they will someday come to an end:
MUSE has shown that the tip of the left pillar is facing us, atop a pillar that is is actually situated behind NGC 6611, unlike the other pillars. This tip is bearing the brunt of the radiation from NGC 6611’s stars, and as a result looks brighter to our eyes than the bottom left, middle and right pillars, whose tips are all pointed away from our view.
The ESO’s MUSE instrument, which allows astronomers to observe “the entirety of an astronomical object in one go,” is the tool that made such a detailed image possible.
According to the ESO, vast structures of gas and dust like the Pillars of Creation take shape when newly formed, gigantic O and B class stars emit powerful ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds, clearing away all but the most dense materials from the vicinity.
The Pillars of Creation are also shedding 70 times the mass of the Sun roughly every one million years. Since the current mass of the pillars is about 200 times that of the Sun, you may only have around three million years left to take one long last look.
Here’s another video of the Pillars of Creation in 3D: