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Object description
The open star cluster Messier 16 and the "Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula IC 4703 in the constellation of the Serpent

Short objekt description:

Our image shows the open star cluster Messier 16 and the Eagle Nebula IC 4703. The raw sum images were only exposed briefly for this image to prevent overexposure of the bright stars of the star cluster. In addition, this also avoided overexposure of the bright nebulae - in which the star cluster is embedded.

The open star cluster bears the designation M 16 in the Messier catalogue. In many astronomical catalogues, nebula and star cluster are listed synonymously as Messier 16, so that the numbering in the Messier catalogue is usually also used for the nebula. This is not quite correct, however, because the H-II region of the Eagle Nebula officially bears the catalogue number IC 4703.

Messier 16 is estimated to contain between 60 and 100 stars, it is classified as class II 3 m n according to Shapley and its distance to the solar system is about 7,000 light years. The average age of the stars is about 800,000, the youngest are only about 50,000 years old.

The star cluster was probably discovered in 1745/46 by the Swiss astronomer Jean Philippe Loys de Chéseaux. It was rediscovered independently of de Chéseaux by the French comet hunter Charles Messier, who assigned it number 16 in the well-known catalogue named after him, noting: " a cluster of small stars embedded in a faint glow".

The Eagle Nebula IC 4703 is an emission nebula type H-II, from which the stellar owl formed. It consists mainly of hydrogen and has a size of about 20 light years. The nebula contains columns of dust up to 9.5 light-years long, at the top of which new stars form, which is why they are also called "pillars of creation". The Eagle Nebula became world famous in 1995 with a spectacular image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In 2001 ESO's Very Large Telescope took another image of the nebula in the near-infrared spectral range, which allowed us to look inside the dust columns. There you can clearly see that new stars are forming inside the dust columns.

The images from the Hubble Telescope can be seen here and here.

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