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  M16 -- "Close up on a Stellar Maternity Ward"


This incredible color image was made from three black and white pictures taken with the HST. It shows a region where stars are being born deep inside a giant cloud of gas and dust known as M16, or the Eagle Nebula, about 7,000 light years from earth. New stars are forming inside each of these pillar-like structures where the density of gas and dust has been high enough to allow gravity to collapse and heat up these regions. When central temperatures at spots within the pillars exceed a few million degrees, a star is born at each spot. Gradually, the pressure of light from other stars outside the pillars is blowing the enshrouding dust away (eroding the pillars) and revealing the infant stars within.

 
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