In 1995, a now famous picture
from the Hubble Space Telescope featured
Pillars of Creation, star forming columns of cold gas and
dust light-years long inside
M16, the Eagle Nebula.
This remarkable false-color
image revisits the nearby stellar nursery
with image data from the orbiting
Herschel Space Observatory and
Herschel's far infrared
detectors record the emission from
the region's cold dust directly, including the famous pillars
and other structures
near the center of the scene.
Toward the other extreme of the
electromagnetic spectrum, XMM-Newton's
vision reveals the massive, hot stars of
the nebula's embedded star cluster.
Hidden from Hubble's view at optical wavelengths,
the massive stars have a profound effect,
sculpting and transforming the natal gas and dust
structures with their energetic winds and radiation.
In fact, the massive stars are short lived and astronomers
have found evidence
in the image data pointing to the remnant of a supernova explosion
with an apparent age of 6,000 years.
If true, the expanding shock waves would have
destroyed the visible structures, including the famous pillars.
But because the Eagle Nebula is some 6,500 light-years distant,
their destruction won't
be witnessed for hundreds of years.