M16 and NGC6611 (Eagle Nebula)

M16 - The Eagle Nebula

M16 is an open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens Cauda located at a distance of approximately 7,000 light years.   NGC6611, the Eagle Nebula, surrounds the cluster and is comprised of a great interstellar cloud of gas and dust.  This region, like the Orion Nebula, is a stellar breeding ground where new star formation continues in the region of the dark "elephant trunks," which are visible at the lower center of this image.   These trunks or pillars were labeled the "pillars of creation" when the Hubble Telescope famously imaged this region in 1995 (see below).

These famous pillars may have been destroyed by a nearby star that exploded as a supernova around 8000-9000 years ago according to data obtained with the Spitzer space telescope.   Since the nebula is about 7000 light years away, the supernova would have been visible to humans around 1000-2000 years ago and astronomers believe that about 2000 years later the pillars were destroyed by the blast.   This means that in about another 1000 years the pillars may not be visible.   If true, this is a fascinating example of the fact that astronomers look into the past by observing distant objects.   The pillars I imaged in 2008 may no longer exist but my camera caught a glimpse of how the nebula looked 7000 years ago.

 This image is an LRGB composite from a 34-minute luminance image combined with 10-minute red, green and blue images obtained on the morning of 26 July 2008. The image was obtained through a William Optics FLT110 4.3" f/7 refractor with an SXV-H9 CCD camera.

 Additional information and images can be found at at the SEDS Messier Catalog - M16 and also at Wikipedia - Eagle Nebula.

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