Monday, November 14, 2005
The Mountains of Creation
Remember the iconic Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula? Well the Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted something to put the pillars to shame. The Mountains of Creation are massive pillars of gas in an area called W5 in Cassiopeia. They are 10 times the area of the Pillars of the Eagle Nebula. The relentless radiation form a massive star is eroding cool, neutral hydrogen into these finger-like extensions. Within the pillars new stars are being born, revealed here by Spitzers IR imaging.
The really cool thing is that the (false) red colour is due to the absorbance of infrared light by complex organic molecules, the things that are important for life. It might be that these complex compounds will seed planets newly formed around these juvenile stars, possibly leading to life developing of these nascent worlds, and that these will be truly Mountains of Creation. See more at this page and at Toms astroblog.