Pillars of Creation

Pillars of Creation
Photograph by NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Hubble Space Telescope took the iconic image of “Pillars of Creation” first in 1995. It shows three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the ultraviolet light from a cluster of young stars in the Eagle Nebula. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has taken a new set of pictures, showing a sharper and wider view of the structures in this visible-light image. These things are so massive, it boggles the mind. The pillars are about five light years tall. That means that if you boarded a Southwest Airlines plane and traveled about 500 miles per hour, it would take you about 1.35 million years to travel from the bottom to the top of one of the pillars. Even if you flew as fast as the International Space Station (about 17,000 mph), it would still take about 40,000 years to travel that distance.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, they are 6,500 light years away from us. The pillars we are looking at in this picture now are what they were 2,000 years before the great Egyptian Pyramid was built.

To travel there by one of our space capsules at 17,000 mph, I would have to travel 51 million years. I guess I won’t be going.

And yet, there they sit, the pillars of creation, minding their own eternal business, staring at us.



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