It’s an act of violence on a cosmic scale.
The images revealed a “nursery” of new stars, which were wiping out the very clouds from which they formed.
“In an ironic twist, one of the first consequences of the formation of a massive star is that it starts to destroy the cloud from which it was born,” the ESO wrote in a news release.
That destruction led to scenes that looked like the cover of a 1960s psychedelic album. Some of the nicknames even sounded like the titles of those albums, such as the Mystic Mountain, a formation of gas and dust that spans more than three light years:
The pillars were being attacked from both inside and out, according to the ESO. Inside the pillars, newborn stars were emitting jets of gas, which were the rays that seemed to be coming from the peaks of the pillars. On the outside, they were slammed with the intense light of newly-formed stars nearby.
The new images and animations were taken with the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer by a team of researchers led by Anna McLeod, a doctoral student at ESO studying how massive stars influence their environment.
“These pillars might look dense, but the clouds of dust and gas which make up nebulae are actually very diffuse,” ESO stated. “It is possible that the radiation and stellar winds from massive stars actually help create denser spots within the pillars, which can then form stars.”
The new image was reminiscent of the famous “Pillars of Creation” image from the Eagle Nebula captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
See more images of the Pillars of Destruction below.