The Pillars of Creation, as captured in a high-resolution HST image taken in 2014 as a tribute to the original Hubble photograph from 1995. Image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
On 1 April 1995, Hubble captured one of its most well-known images: a stunning photo of towering features known as the Pillars of Creation, located in the Eagle Nebula just 7,000 light-years away. A new study explores how these iconic columns are influenced by the magnetic fields within them.
In the Hubble image, we see the result of young, hot stars that have driven a photoionization shock into the cloud around them, forming complex structures in the dense gas at the shock interfaces. These structures — in this case, dense columns of neutral gas and dust — are then bombarded with hot radiation from the young stars, giving the structures a misty, ethereal look as they photoevaporate.
Though astronomers have a rough picture, the specifics of how the Pillars of Creation were formed and how they evolve in this harsh radiation environment isn’t yet fully understood. In particular, the role of magnetic fields in shaping and sustaining these pillars is poorly constrained, both observationally and theoretically.
To address this problem, ...