Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

Eagle Nebula (IC 4703)





Eagle Nebula (IC 4703)
The famous 1995 Hubble Space Telescope photo of the "pillars of creation" that has appeared on magazine covers, postcards, and computer desktops worldwide
Eagle Nebula spire
A spire within the Eagle Nebula 9.5 light-years long – twice the distance from the Sun to the nearest star
Also known as the Star Queen Nebula, a diffuse nebula in the constellation Serpens, discovered by Charles Messier in 1764. The Eagle Nebula (IC 4703) is an active region of star formation that gave birth to the open cluster M16 (NGC 6611) about 5.5 million years ago and is now illuminated by the hot stars of this cluster. It is located within the Sagittarius Arm – the next inner spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy to us.

One of the most stunning photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope is of the so-called "pillars of creation" in the Eagle – dark columns of gas and dust, also known as elephant trunks, reaching into the brighter parts of the nebula. At the end of each pillar, the intense ultraviolet light of newborn stars is photovaporizing some of the hydrogen gas and shaping structures called EGGs (evaporating gaseous globules).


visual magnitude 6.4
angular size 7'
linear size 70 × 55 light-years
distance 7,000 light-years
position R.A. 18h 18 m 48s,
Dec. -13° 49'


Science fiction connections
Voyager astrometric panel of the Eagle Nebula
The top of one of the "pillars" of the Eagle Nebula is one of the astronomical images displayed in the Astrometrics Lab aboard the starship Voyager in the TV series Star Trek Voyager.


Related category

   • NEBULAE AND STAR CLUSTERS