Astronomers are seeing one of the most awe-inspiring landmarks in the known universe in a whole new light.
One of the most celebrated images of modern astronomy is the spires of interstellar gas and dust called the Pillars of Creation.
And the famous feature has been rendered anew with greater depth, clarity and colour by the James Webb Space Telescope.
The new view of the pillars, first made famous in 1995 by Webb’s predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, was unveiled by Nasa this week.
It comes three months after Webb’s inaugural batch of cosmic photos was revealed as it began full operations.
The spellbinding images show vast, towering columns of dense clouds of gas and dust where young stars are forming in a region of the Eagle Nebula, in the Serpens constellation, some 6,500 light-years from Earth.
The image became a worldwide cultural phenomenon, emblazoned on to everyday objects ranging from T-shirts to coffee mugs.
Revisited by Hubble’s visible-light optics to create a sharper, wider scene in 2014, the pillars were rendered by Webb in the near-infrared spectrum with even greater translucency, bringing many more stars into view while revealing new contours of the gas-and-dust clouds.
The new view ‘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,’ Nasa said in a statement.
Bright red orbs appearing just outside of the pillars are infant stars, where enormous knots of gas and dust have collapsed under their own gravity and slowly heated up, giving birth to new stellar bodies, according to Nasa.
Wavy crimson lines that look like lava at the edge of some pillars are ejections of matter from stars still forming within the gas and dust and are estimated to be only a few hundred-thousand years old, the US space agency said.
The $9 billion James Webb infrared telescope was launched to space on Christmas day last year, in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
It reached its destination in solar orbit nearly 1 million miles from Earth a month later and is expected to revolutionize astronomy by allowing scientists to peer farther than before and with greater precision into the cosmos, to the dawn of the known universe.
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