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Eagle Nebula (M16) (2014)
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Photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

These images show a visible and a near-infrared view of the pillars in the Eagle Nebula.

Facts of interest about the image

These images complement each other and provide a more complete view of star formation.

Classroom activity

Included is an inquiry-based classroom activity that focuses on the image and text.


These Hubble Space Telescope images show two views of the iconic pillars in the Eagle Nebula — one in visible light and the other in near-infrared light. The pillars were formed when light from young, hot stars, located above the pillars and off the image, ate away the surface of the dust and gas clouds in this region. The pillars resisted erosion because they were more dense areas of star formation. Near-infrared-light penetrates the dust and gas to reveal a myriad of stars behind the nebula, as well as newly forming stars within the pillars. The lithograph PDF includes an inquiry-based classroom activity.

8-12, but the material can be adapted for use in other grades at the teacher's discretion.
How to use in the classroom

Teachers can use this lithograph as:

An example of visible- and near-infrared-light observations. Use the inquiry-based classroom activity, "In Search of … the Electromagnetic Spectrum," that is included with the PDF lithograph.

An engagement tool in an inquiry-based lesson. Have students study the images on the lithograph. Ask them to write down any questions they have about the images. When the students are finished, their questions can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Ask students to find the answers to their questions by reading the text on the lithograph and/or the related materials listed below.

  • Have students exchange papers so that each student has someone else's questions. Then have them find the answers to the other students' questions by reading the text on the lithograph and/or the related materials listed below.

  • Gather the questions into a list by asking students to volunteer to read their questions while you or another student records them. Ask students to raise their hands if they have the same or a similar question. Count the number of hands raised and record this number next to the question. Once all the students' questions have been added to the list, have students search for the answers to their questions in the text on the back of the lithograph. When they complete that task, ask them to decide whether each of their questions was answered completely, answered partially, or not answered at all. Go through the original list and place an "A" in front of the questions that were answered completely, a "P" for those that were partially answered, and an "N" for those that were not answered at all. Determine if the most commonly asked questions were also answered completely. Encourage students to do further research to find answers to the unanswered questions.

A content reading tool. Have students read the text on the lithograph and then write a quiz for the class.

A component in a compare/contrast activity. Compare the features/structure of this nebula to those of the Eskimo Nebula, found in the related materials below. A T-chart or Venn diagram would be a good organizational tool to use for this activity. The activity involves using a graphic organizer to compare the Eagle and Eskimo nebulae. The solution is the graphic organizer listed below as the second resource in the "Related materials" section.

Related materials

Star Witness news: "Hubble Revisits Famous Pillars for 25th Anniversary"

Lithograph: Eskimo Nebula

Graphic Organizer: Comparison of the Eagle Nebula and the Eskimo Nebula

HubbleSite feature: Infrared: Beyond the Visible

HubbleSite press release on Eagle Nebula: "Hubble Goes High Def to Revisit the Iconic 'Pillars of Creation'"

HubbleSite press release on Eagle Nebula (1995 observation): "Embryonic Stars Emerge from Interstellar 'Eggs'"

HubbleSite press release on Eskimo Nebula: "Hubble Reopens its Eye on the Universe"

Amazing Space resources by topic: Stars and stellar evolution

Amazing Space resources by topic: Electromagnetic spectrum/Light & color