The Eagle’s Central Section

July 18, 2018


Photographers: Paul G. Ricketts; Joe Bauman and the Utah Astronomy Club 
Summary Author: Joe Bauman 

For most astronomy lovers in the northern hemisphere, July is the month to drag out the telescope and view the spectacular Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16. Shown above is an image of the Eagle’s central section in the constellation of Serpens. This nebula is an open cluster of stars and interstellar gas about 7,175 light-years from Earth, a huge region 70 light-years by 55 light-years where stars are forming and evolving. A youngster in astronomical terms – only 3.6 million years old – M16 hosts towers of dust and gas reaching 4 to 5 light-years long, or about twice the distance from the Sun to the nearest star.

The tendrils, where stars are condensing, are nicknamed the “Pillars of Creation” because of their dramatic appearance. According to Hubble Space Telescope authorities, blasts of ultraviolet light from young, massive stars are eroding the pillars. As new stars compress the gaseous material and erode it, the nebulosity will evaporate. Eventually, the Eagle Nebula will be reduced to a scattering of stars in an open cluster.

Photo Details: Image taken on June 30, 2018, via remote control, using the University of Utah’s Willard L. Eccles Observatory in southern Utah. Seated in a control room in the South Physics Building on campus, Salt Lake City, Paul G. Ricketts of the Department of Physics and Astronomy operated the observatory and its 32-inch-diameter telescope. Many raw images from the session were processed into this view by club coordinator Joe Bauman, Salt Lake City, Utah.