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.
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. . .
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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]
- 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]
- According to the Encyclopedia of Science, the Eagle Nebula is also known as the Star Queen 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.