Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hail Atlantis and the Eagle Nebula

In my post on the 4th of July I showed an image of a nebula named IC-2177 Eagle Nebula, also called Seagull Nebula, and mentioned that I had fallen in love with a different, far more spectacular nebula also known as the Eagle Nebula IC-4703, that I wanted to share later. It seems fitting to do so now as NASA's Space Shuttle Program is ready to launch its final mission on July 8 with Atlantis (it may be delayed due to weather). I lament the end of the United States' manned space missions, considering them to be the most marvelous events in my lifetime. A very fine interview with John Glenn was shown on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams this week (at least I thought it was very fine because John Glenn and I are of the same opinions here) -- CLICK to view.

When I saw this image of the Stellar Spire in the Eagle Nebula, I immediately related it to a famous painting by an American painter from The Golden Age of Illustration (1880s-1920s). Maybe you can guess which one.....just don't peek below yet.

Stellar Spire

Appearing like a winged fairy-tale creature poised on a pedestal, this object is actually a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from a stellar nursery called the Eagle Nebula. The soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometres high, about twice the distance from our Sun to the next nearest star.

Stars in the Eagle Nebula are born in clouds of cold hydrogen gas that reside in chaotic neighbourhoods, where energy from young stars sculpts fantasy-like landscapes in the gas. The tower may be a giant incubator for those newborn stars. A torrent of ultraviolet light from a band of massive, hot, young stars [off the top of the image] is eroding the pillar. . .

[continue reading at]

Deep within the Eagle Nebula, stars are 
being forged in a tower of gas and dust 
57 trillion miles (90 trillion km) high. 
[source: HubbleSite linked just below]

For an illuminating, short Image Tour about Stellar Spire in the Eagle Nebula zip over to HubbleSite (I highly recommend).

Here is what the entire Eagle Nebula looks like, with added enhancement boxes of key sections. Note the Stellar Spire is in the top left box, turned horizontally. Image was taken by Hubble Space Telescope on August 24, 2008 (see file history).

This glorious image of the Eagle Nebula was the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day on October 24, 2004. Note that the Stellar Spire is a bit below center, left, in a vertical view.

And this is the famous painting by Maxfield Parrish, titled Ecstasy, that I think resembles
the Stellar Spire!

Ecstasy - 1929

Commissioned for the 1930 General Electric Mazda Lamp Calendar, this painting depicts a young woman standing on the edge of a cliff, back arched, her hands lifting her hair, clearly enjoying the sun on her face and the wind whipping through her hair and clothing. Distant mountains and a “Parrish blue” sky with fluffy white clouds make up the background. A blue river winds below the cliff.

Parrish’s youngest child, Jean, born in 1911, posed for Ecstasy just before leaving for Smith College. Jean was the only child to follow her parents’ profession. She also posed for Parrish more often than her three older brothers, Dillwyn, Max Jr., and Stephen. Jean also modeled for Mary, Mary Quite Contrary (1921), Jack and the Beanstalk (1923), Evening (1921 or 1944), Daybreak (1922, standing girl), Knave of Hearts (1922, Prince), Stars (1926), and Dreaming (1928).
[source: Maxfield Parrish Gallery]

Additional info:
  • The Eagle Nebula was probably first photographed by E.E. Barnard in 1895, and by Isaac Roberts in 1897; Isaac Robert's finding brought this object into the IC catalog (IC means Index Catalog). [source, also has more information on the Eagle Nebula]
  • My first marriage ceremony (see post HERE) took place at the University of Nevada Planetarium, complete with dome show. A few years earlier I took Astronomy 101 there, but my love for space and space exploration began when I was a child and remains a passion to this day. 



Rob-bear said...

I'm impressed with your love of things celestial! Wow! That's an amazing formation you've described and pictured.
Then I read about your first marriage. And I sat here, ready to cry.

Lydia said...

Aw, Rob-bear ~ Thank you for such a dear comment. You are such an interesting and caring Bear.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...


just - wow

ds said...

That "star nursery" is amazing to behold. And the connection to Parrish? Brilliant. Thank you.

Darlene said...

I don''t know which I like better. The first picture of the Stellar Spire or the painting of Ecstasy.

I did have a bit of vertigo, though, when I looked at the painting of the girl poised on a tilted rock at the edge of the abyss.

Your wedding was just perfect; too bad it was to the wrong man. I can understand your going through with it to spare the feelings of your guests, but we both know now that your feelings were the ones that should have taken precedence. I hope there were enough good times to partially compensate for the bad.

Judy Clem said...

Really beautiful! It does look like an Eagle! And I hate to see our manned flights end as well.

Lydia said...

Pixies~ I know. :)

ds~ Sure happy to see you here today!

Darlene~ I had not thought of the vertigo angle, but now that you mention it I can feel it too. Mostly, though, it gives me a soaring feeling. And the Eagle Nebula most certainly does too.
Memories of that wedding day long ago, while not giving me soaring feelings, are ones that I can appreciate for the special splendor of the show/ceremony. As for my time with T.J., my memories are a blur...

Judy~ Now, when you wrote that it looks like an eagle to you (which it still had not yet to me) I sort of relaxed and saw it in a different way. I think I detect an eagle's head and chest in the Stellar Spire. Is that what you see? Or do you see and a full eagle, possibly in flight? If that is the case, then I am missing it. And I do not see an eagle at all in the whole Eagle Nebula! Help!

Maggie May said...

What a wonderful, wonderful post!! THank you Lydia

Lydia said...

Maggie May~ Thank you! Been a long time since you were here, or I was at your blog. Miss you and will stop by soon, Maggie.



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