In early 2007, scientists using the Spitzer discovered evidence that potentially indicates the famed three Pillars of Creation photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 in the Eagle Nebula were destroyed by a nearby supernova explosion about 6,000 years ago, but the light showing the new shape of the nebula will not reach Earth for another thousand years.
A striking image from Spitzer (below) shows the intact dust towers next to a giant cloud of hot dust thought to have been scorched by the blast of a star that exploded, or went supernova. Astronomers speculate that the supernova's shock wave could have already reached the dusty towers, causing them to topple about 6,000 years ago.
However, because light from this region takes 7,000 years to reach Earth, we won't be able to capture photos of the destruction for another millenium or so. Spitzer's view of the region shows the entire Eagle nebula, a vast and stormy community of stars set amid clouds and steep pillars made of gas and dust, including the three well-known "Pillars of Creation."
The pillars are composed of cool molecular hydrogen and dust that are being eroded by photoevaporation from the ultraviolet light of relatively close and hot stars. The leftmost pillar is about four light years in length. The finger-like protrusions at the top of the clouds are larger than our solar system, and are made visible by the shadows of Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGGs), which shields the gas behind them from intense UV flux. EGGs are themselves incubators of new stars.
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