The “Pillars of Creation,” a photograph of part of the Eagle Nebula, is one of the most iconic images ever taken by the Hubble telescope. Just last week, astronomers released a bigger, better, sharper version of the pillars, taken almost two decades after the first.
Sadly, the Pillars might have been long ago torn apart by a distant explosion.
The Pillars live 7,000 light-years away from Earth. The light we see from them — the light that Hubble Space Telescope scientists used to make the new image — departed from the nebula in the year 4985 B.C.E., traveled at the speed of light toward us, and arrived here 7,000 years later. We thus see the nebula as it looked 7,000 years ago.