"Pillars of Creation" --A Galactic Artifact Vaporized by a Supernova Explosion 6,000 Years Ago ('2012 Most Popular')
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December 30, 2012

"Pillars of Creation" --A Galactic Artifact Vaporized by a Supernova Explosion 6,000 Years Ago ('2012 Most Popular')

 

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In early 2007, scientists using the Spitzer discovered evidence that potentially indicates the famed three Pillars of Creation photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 in the Eagle Nebula were destroyed by a nearby supernova explosion about 6,000 years ago, but the light showing the new shape of the nebula will not reach Earth for another thousand years.

A new, striking image from Spitzer shows the intact dust towers next to a giant cloud of hot dust thought to have been scorched by the blast of a star that exploded, or went supernova. Astronomers speculate that the supernova's shock wave could have already reached the dusty towers, causing them to topple about 6,000 years ago. However, because light from this region takes 7,000 years to reach Earth, we won't be able to capture photos of the destruction for another millennium or so.

Spitzer's view of the region shows the entire Eagle nebula, a vast and stormy community of stars set amid clouds and steep pillars made of gas and dust, including the three well-known "Pillars of Creation."

"I remember seeing a photograph of these pillars more than a decade ago and being inspired to become an astronomer," said Nicolas Flagey of The Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in France. "Now, we have discovered something new about this region we thought we understood so well."

Astronomers have long predicted that a supernova blast wave would mean the end for the popular pillars. The region is littered with 20 or so stars ripe for exploding, so it was only a matter of time, they reasoned, before one would blow up. The new Spitzer observations suggest one of these stellar time bombs has in fact already detonated, an event humans most likely witnessed 1,000 to 2,000 years ago as an unusually bright star in the sky.

Whenever the mighty pillars are vaporized, gas and dust will be blown away, exposing newborn stars that were forming inside. A new generation of stars might also spring up from the dusty wreckage.

Spitzer is a space telescope that detects infrared, longer-wavelength light that our eyes cannot see. This allows the observatory to both see the dust and see through it, depending on which infrared wavelength is being observed. In Spitzer's new look at the Eagle nebula, the three pillars appear small and ghostly transparent. They are colored green in this particular view. In the largest of the three columns, an embedded star is seen forming inside the tip.

Above the pillars is the enormous cloud of hot dust, colored red in the picture, which astronomers think was seared by the blast wave of a supernova explosion. Flagey and his team say evidence for this scenario comes from similarities observed between this hot dust and dust around known supernova remnants. The dust also appears to have a shell-like shape, implying that a supernova blast wave is traveling outward and sculpting it.

The mysterious dust was first revealed in previous images from the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory, but Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared instrument was able to tentatively match the dust to a supernova event.

"Something else besides starlight is heating this dust," said Dr. Alberto Noriega-Crespo, Flagey's advisor at the Spitzer Science Center. "With Spitzer, we now have the missing long-wavelength infrared data that are giving us an answer."


The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Spitzer 

For additional graphics and more information about Spitzer, visit
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale

Comments

Dear Readers;

This is the most appropriate spot I could find to send this mail to Casey.

The question, and doubt, I have concerns the state of science, and especially physics and quantum mechanics over the last several decades.

(Folks, there is something wrong with the basic science we practice today, because we have complicated scientific theory to the point that it is almost nonsensical! First there were atoms, and they were made up of a nucleus of protons and neutrons with electrons flying around them, just like little Solar Systems. Then it got refined even further with quarks and charm and bla, bla, bla, until we got down to quantum theory and strings, etc. etc.)

SO!

This got to the point where some smart guy said; "Hey, it looks like the Universe is FINE TUNED FOR LIFE!" And all the other smart guys said; "Since there is no God, it must be pure chance that this particular Universe has those qualities (fine tuned for life) and that must mean that there are millions and BILLIONS of other Universes................., and we are just lucky enough to be in the right one! AND ON TOP OF THAT, THE UNIVERSE IS NOTHING BUT A HOLOGRAM ANYWAY!

With me so far? (Note; This is not a religious piece)

Well let me tell ya something kids, there is something rotten in Denmark, as the old saying goes.

It's just a gut feeling of mine, since I'm not a scientist, but I think this whole physics thing has gotten out of hand. The more complicated we think it is, the more complicated it seems to become, and I don't know whether the thinking or the doing is responsible.

But I do know that old saying called Occam's razor should be employed at some point in this equation !

[quote][Occam's razor (also written as Ockham's razor, Latin lex parsimoniae) is the law of parsimony, economy, or succinctness. It is a principle stating that among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected][/quote]

I like to think of it as "When all else fails, the simple solution is usually the correct one!' OR "When you hear hoof-beats, look for horses, not zebras!"

I don't profess to know where in the equation of modern physics we should employ Occam's razor, boys and girls, but I do know that at the present time we are looking for winged zebras......., and that ain't right!

Allen
Although I agree with you, my personal feeling are that most scientist feel they are far above the rest of the world as far as understanding the basics and advanced theorys of every thing every wheres. Some even just might be. But unless you and I are out there doing our own studies, we really dont have much to educate the educated with and all these opinions turn into just no more than opinions. Also because we are a fame = money world it is unlikely to change. (How would it look for a Sheldon Cooper to be taught from Penny?) Until we are a race living in space ships and testing and proving all our (what ever they may be at that time) theorys, it will continue. My favorite ones are the ones that attack my spelling/grammar. For the most part its all they can do. Buuuuut hang in there brother. No one said we have to believe every thing we hear.

I just wish I could give a better argument about where physics is going than; "It just doesn't feel right!" But without going into page after page of explanations that might not make sense anyway, that is about the best I can come up with! ;>(

The article made no sence...we're waiting another 1,000 years to see the pillars blown up but the people 1,000 - 2,000 years ago saw the explosion that destroyed them as a bright light?

da parker
Think of it like going to visit your granny that lives 500 miles away. She cant see you coming because you are too far away, even though you are all ready half way there. All she sees is the same view of the road till you get close enough and THEN she can see you.

@ smarty:Better pull up those pants, Baby! Happy New Year mate, you're my favourite too!

Hello Ruth
Glad to see you still visit here. Happy New Year back at ya!

William of Occam (or Ockham) laid down the principle that 'entia non sunt multiplicanda' - entities are not to be multiplied. Loosely, this means that the simplest possible explanation - the one which doesn't require you to imagine or believe in a lot of additional mechanisms or entities - is the one you should always adopt. This is an extremely useful principle, often invoked. There are always in principle lots of alternative explanations for anything (in fact an infinite number, since we can always add another irrelevant element to any theory), so we need some way of choosing between them.

But there are some problems. It's not always easy to tell which hypothesis is the simpler one or the one with fewest entities. It could well be argued that the simplest explanation of everything is that God makes it the way it is by direct action of His will. If we adopt that hypothesis, we can do without all the constants, laws of nature, forces, fields, and all the rest of the apparatus required by physics (and hey, what are these 'laws of nature', anyway? What legislature passed them and which policeman enforces them?). Most philosophers, I think, would regard God as the redundant entity, amounting in himself to a much more complex and ontologically burdensome commitment than any amount of science. But it's not always obvious which way the sharp edge of Occam's razor is pointing.

Secondly, Occam may predispose us towards inadequate explanations. After all, it's not enough to be simple: an explanation must really explain things, too. If we work too hard at applying the razor we might find ourselves slicing out things we actually need ('I don't see the need for this Gravity business. Things just fall down, that's all. It's true by definition - 'down' just means the direction things fall in - obviously').

In the third place, what justification is there for assuming that the simplest explanation is the true one? The answer, I'm afraid, is none, really. The simplest explanation sometimes turns out to be wrong. Some would argue that within the infinite sea of possible explanations, the true ones are inevitably near the simpler end, so as a general rule, the simpler the better. But even if you accept that argument, it only means the simpler hypothesis is slightly more likely to be true. The truth is, I think, that as a matter of practicality we have to pick out one of the possible explanations in any given case, and simplicity is the only criterion which can be relied on, even in principle, as an objective way of singling out just one option. What else could we do? Choosing the most complex hypothesis won't work, because, there is no limit to the complexity we can add. The most beautiful or elegant explanation (unless these terms are used as synonyms for 'simplest') is a matter of opinion.

@ Allan
Checkout Erik Linde or "The Situation of Gravity" by Reg Mundy for an alternative to the current theories you find questionable. But be aware that you will be pilloried by the establishment for your heresy just like Professor Brian Ford was when he suggested that, perhaps, some dinosaurs like T-Rex lived in swamps rather than leaping about on land as represented by Steven Speilberg et al.


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