Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.)
NASA has just released a spectacular high resolution image of the Eagle/M16 nebula taken by the Hubble telescope. Known as the “Pillars of Creation” it is 6500 light years away from us. In effect what we are seeing now is 6500 years old. It has taken the image those many years to travel at the speed of light to (186,000 miles a second) to reach us now.
Detail of the M16
The first image of the same nebula was taken in 1995. As NASA explains, in the 19 years since things have happened in the nebula. “By comparing the 1995 and 2014 pictures, astronomers also noticed a lengthening of a narrow jet-like feature that may have been ejected from a newly forming star. The jet looks like a stream of water from a garden hose. Over the intervening 19 years, this jet has stretched farther into space, across an additional 60 billion miles, at an estimated speed of about 450,000 miles per hour.”
Everything in the universe is a constant reminder of our piddling existence, including a cosmically minor detail such as 60 billion miles that the jet has stretched since we last saw it.
I started out wanting to paint the M16. I even got the basic colors right as I began but immediately realized the futility of replicating what the universe has already done. The result was that I ended up with the following painting.
The M16 by Mayank Chhaya