Just in time for Halloween, NASA and the European Space Agency's (ESA) James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has snapped a haunting photograph of one of the most iconic places in the cosmos.
It was only a few weeks ago when NASA released a breathtaking view of the Pillars of Creation, and now the space agency has released a second view, but this one is different as it primarily is taken in mid-infrared light, giving it a completely different appearance.
The Pillars of Creation are located 7,000 light-years away from Earth within the constellation Serpens, and as explained on the ESA's website, the thousands of stars seen in the below image (Webb's first image) completely disappear from view, with the thick clouds of interstellar gas and dust becoming the main focal point.
While the gas and dust certainly don't sparkle as beautifully as the stars, they eventually will, as interstellar dust and gas are the main ingredients of star formation. ESA officials explain that many stars are forming within these dense blue-grey pillars. Stars form when large knots of gas and dust begin to collapse under their own gravitational attraction, causing a heating process that eventuates into newborn stars.
These stars then eventually die and expel their compositions outwards, creating nebulas or the breeding grounds for new stars to form, such as the Pillars of Creation. This is the continuous violent process of life and death on a cosmic scale.
As for the Pillars of Creation, they were first photographed by the famous Hubble Space Telescope back in 1995. The 32-year-old space telescope, while still in operation despite being well passed its mission life expectancy, is limited by its instruments while also being designed to observe the cosmos in different types of light.
Webb is designed to observe the cosmos in infrared light, while Hubble is tuned for visible light. Webb's infrared instruments, paired with its much larger mirror and vantage point of being one million miles away from Earth, allow it to capture the iconic Pillars of Creation in much more detail than Hubble. Additionally, Webb's infrared instruments allow it to see straight through interstellar dust to reveal stars that were previously invisible to astronomers.