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Exposures: L 11×600 Bin 1, RGB 11×300 Bin 2
Telescope: 10″ RC
Camera: QSI 683
Distance: 7,000 Light Years
Size: 7 Arc-minutes
Age: Approx. 2 Million Years
Messier 16 is an open cluster in the constellation Serpens. The cluster is very young at 2 million years and was formed from the surrounding gas and dust known as IC 4703. The cluster contains about 460 stars with the brightest at magnitude 8.24. The entire area is commonly known as the Eagle nebula or Star Queen nebula. M16 contains many very hot young stars and the ultraviolet radiation emitted from these stars is the illuminating source of IC 4703. These young stars are also responsible for the shaping of the elephant trunk structures seen in my image. These young stars are Type O stars which are very hot, very large, and emit large amounts of ultraviolet radiation in the form of a solar wind. It is this solar wind which sculpts the shape of the denser dust in the region. It is also the solar wind which can destroy any planet and star formation in the immediate area of newly formed stars by blasting away any remaining gas and dust. This ultraviolet radiation is also giving the entire nebula a hollowed out look as it pushes gas and dust away from the cluster. However, farther out this same solar wind provides an initiation force to stimulate star formation because it shocks and heats cooler gas and dust.
The large dust structures in my image are shaped from the ultraviolet radiation of nearby stars in the cluster. The dark dust structures are commonly known as elephant trunk structures because of their shape. One of the more famous ones is seen in this image and has been dubbed the Pillars of Creation. This area is shown in the middle of my image as a multi-pronged feature. The pillars contain Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGG) that are smaller denser areas of gas and dust and are thought to be star formation areas. The smaller dust structures outside of these elephant trunk structures are called globules and it is thought that these are future protostars.