Hubble is reprising one of its greatest hits. Twenty years after the release of its iconic image of the Eagle nebula's "Pillars of Creation", the space telescope – which turns 25 this year – has captured two new, even sharper views that peer through the pillars' shrouds of dust.
The original image, taken in 1995 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, revealed three towering "elephant trunks" of gas and dust that are in the process of forming new stars. The columns are also being sculpted and eroded by winds from nearby young star.
The five exoplanets with hints of water are all scorching-hot, Jupiter-size worlds that are unlikely to host life as we know it. But finding water in their atmospheres still marks a step forward in the search for distant planets that may be capable of supporting alien life, researchers said.
The celestial critter in the new Hubble telescope photo is actually a cloud of gas stretching one light-year (10 trillion kilometers) across, scientists said. This cloud is in the process of collapsing under its own gravity to give birth to a star — but it's a race against time, because the established bright stars in its vicinity are fighting this process.