Eagle Nebula and Pillars of Creation

Images of the Eagle Nebula and its famous feature the Pillars of Creation.

M16, The Eagle Nebula Juanma Giménez, Barcelona, Spain, 16 June 2020. Equipment: ZWO ASI 1600MM camera, Sky-Watcher 150/750 Newtonian, Sky-Watcher EQ6R Pro mount

The Eagle Nebula is an active star-forming region 7,000 lightyears away that spans 70 lightyears across. It is host to scorching hot newborn stars that illuminate, carve and sculpt the surrounding gas and dust.

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The Eagle Nebula, also known as M16 in the Messier Catalogue, is probably best known because of the iconic Pillars of Creation, famously imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The pillars are regions of dark dust and gas contained within the Eagle Nebula that stretch about 5 lightyears long and hide embedded newborn stars from view.

You might not realise it if you look solely at Hubble’s Pillars of Creation image in isolation, but they really only make up a small portion of the Eagle Nebula region.

Hubble's famous 1995 image the 'Pillars of Creation'. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)
Hubble’s famous 1995 image the ‘Pillars of Creation’. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)

When the image was first released in 1995, it offered a vision of an active cosmos, where new stars were being born and carving out the region around them. The Universe, it was clear, is a living, changing thing.

The Pillars of Creation are part of a hollow in the Eagle Nebula carved out by star cluster NGC 6611, which is sculpting and illuminating the surrounding cosmic cloud.

They’re so famous that often we forget to notice the entirety of the M16 region itself, which appears as an eagle stretching out its wings and soaring through the cosmos.

The Eagle Nebula David Wills, Oria, Spain, 23-30 June 2019. Equipment: Xpress Trius SX-694 mono CCD camera, TEC 140 f/7 apo refractor, iOptron CEM60 mount.
The Eagle Nebula David Wills, Oria, Spain, 23-30 June 2019. Equipment: Xpress Trius SX-694 mono CCD camera, TEC 140 f/7 apo refractor, iOptron CEM60 mount.

It is one of many nebulae that look like animals. Like meteorological clouds on Earth, astronomers have made a game over the years of nicknaming these deep-sky clouds depending on what they look like.

For a better view of the whole M16 region, take a look at our gallery of images of the Eagle Nebula below, captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers.

And for more info on photographing nebulae, read our deep-sky astrophotography guide.

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If you do manage to capture an image of M16, don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Eagle and Omega Nebulae Lionel Majzik, Siding Spring Observatory, Australia, 21, 22 October 2018 Equipment: FLI Microline 16803 mono CCD camera, Takahashi FSQ-106 ED refractor, Paramount ME mount.
The Eagle and Omega Nebulae, by Lionel Majzik, Siding Spring Observatory, Australia, 21, 22 October 2018. Equipment: FLI Microline 16803 mono CCD camera, Takahashi FSQ-106 ED refractor, Paramount ME mount.
M16, The Eagle Nebula Juanma Giménez, Barcelona, Spain, 16 June 2020. Equipment: ZWO ASI 1600MM camera, Sky-Watcher 150/750 Newtonian, Sky-Watcher EQ6R Pro mount
M16, The Eagle Nebula Juanma Giménez, Barcelona, Spain, 16 June 2020. Equipment: ZWO ASI 1600MM camera, Sky-Watcher 150/750 Newtonian, Sky-Watcher EQ6R Pro mount
Pillars of Creation by Dee Amos, Kitt Peak.
Pillars of Creation by Dee Amos, Kitt Peak. Equipment: Kitt Peak 16″, EOS 350D.
The Eagle Nebula (M16) by Jesper Sundh, Lyon, France.
The Eagle Nebula (M16) by Jesper Sundh, Lyon, France. Equipment: Orion US 8″, Starlight Xpress SXVR-M25C OSC, iOptron iEQ45, Lodestar, SW80ED.
The Eagle Nebula (M16) by Andy Jensen, Battisford, Suffolk, UK.
The Eagle Nebula (M16) by Andy Jensen, Battisford, Suffolk, UK. Equipment: 120mm Skywatcher ED Refractor, NEQ6 Mount, Atik 383l ccd, 7nm ha filter.
The Eagle Nebula (M16) by Mark Casto, Halesworth, Suffolk, UK. Equipment: Sky-watcher 200p, EQ5 mount and dual axis control, Canon 350D modded, Backyard eos.
The Eagle Nebula (M16) by Mark Casto, Halesworth, Suffolk, UK. Equipment: Sky-watcher 200p, EQ5 mount and dual axis control, Canon 350D modded, Backyard eos.
Messier 16 by Anna Morris, Norton, Suffolk, UK.
Messier 16 by Anna Morris, Norton, Suffolk, UK. Equipment: Orion EON80ED, Atik 314L+, Astronomik Ha, SII, OIII
M16 Eagle Nebula Hubble Palette by Andre van der Hoeven, Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, The Netherlands.
M16 Eagle Nebula Hubble Palette by Andre van der Hoeven, Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, The Netherlands. Equipment: TEC140, QSI583ws
M16 (Eagle Nebula) Pillars by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK.
M16 (Eagle Nebula) Pillars by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK. Equipment: TeleVue NP127is, Atik 490EX, Losmandy G11, TV Pronto, Lodestar, 9 x 600s Ha, 6 x 1200s OIII
M16 (Eagle Nebula) Pillars by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK.
M16 (Eagle Nebula) Pillars by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK. Equipment: TeleVue NP127is, Atik 490EX, Losmandy G11, TV Pronto, Lodestar, 9 x 600s Ha, 6 x 1200s OIII
M16 Eagle Nebula by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK.
M16 Eagle Nebula by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. Equipment: Teleskop service 12″ Richey-Chretien telescope, Skywatcher EQ8 mount,Atik 383L+ camera, Astronomik Sii, Ha, Oiii filters, Astro physics 0.67 reducer.
The Eagle Nebula by Mariusz Szymaszek, Seven Sisters, UK.
The Eagle Nebula by Mariusz Szymaszek, Seven Sisters, UK. Equipment: Pentax K-5 on Skywatcher Evostar 80ED Fluorite, Skywatcher Field Flattener/reducer, HEQ5Pro unguided
M16 by Mark Large, Colchester, UK.
M16 by Mark Large, Colchester, UK. Equipment: Altair Astro 10 inch RCT, Modified Canon EOS 1000D
Messier 16 The Eagle Nebula and Pillars of Creation by Tom Bishton, Brisbane, Australia.
Messier 16 The Eagle Nebula and Pillars of Creation by Tom Bishton, Brisbane, Australia. Equipment: Skywatcher ED120 Black Diamond Refractor, AZEQ6 Mount, ST80 Guidescope, Skywatcher Synguider, Canon EOS 550D camera
The Eagle Nebula by Dave Walker, UK.
The Eagle Nebula by Dave Walker, UK. Equipment: Astro60D at -10°C, Canon 100-400, Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer.
Eagle Nebula by José J. Chambó, Hoya Redonda, Valencia, Spain.
Eagle Nebula by José J. Chambó, Hoya Redonda, Valencia, Spain. Equipment: GSO 8″ f/3.8 & Canon EOS-100D
M16 Eagle Nebula by John Dolan, Dublin.
M16 Eagle Nebula by John Dolan, Dublin. Equipment: Losmandy G11 Mount, Skywatcher Esprit 100mm scope, Starlight Express H16 CCD, Baader Ha O111 and S2 filters.
The Eagle Nebula & Pillars Of Creation by Terry Hancock, Fremont, Michigan.
The Eagle Nebula & Pillars Of Creation by Terry Hancock, Fremont, Michigan. Equipment: Astro-Tech AT12RC with AP 2.7″ Reducer @F6.2, Paramount GT-1100S German Equatorial Mount, Image Acquisition Maxim DLQHY16200A monochrome CCD, QHYOAG-M Off Axis Guider
M16 Eagle Nebula by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK.
M16 Eagle Nebula by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. Equipment: Teleskop service 12″ Richey-Chretien telescope, Skywatcher EQ8 mount,Atik 383L+ camera, Astronomik Sii, Ha, Oiii filters, Astro physics 0.67 reducer.
M16 with Pillar of Creation by Ronald Piacenti Junior, Observatorio Norma, Brasilia-DF, Brazil.
M16 with Pillar of Creation by Ronald Piacenti Junior, Observatorio Norma, Brasilia-DF, Brazil. Equipment: Celestron C6 Schmidt-Cassegrain, HEQ5 Pro mount, ZWO ASI174MC camera, focal reducer 0.63, optilong CLS filter
M16, M17 and Sh2-54 mosaic in HaOIII-RGB by Christian vd Berge, Namibia.
M16, M17 and Sh2-54 mosaic in HaOIII-RGB by Christian vd Berge, Namibia. Equipment: Nikon D600, monochrome on a APM107/700 with Riccardi reducer and Baader Ha and OIII filters. Side-by-side with Nikon D600, modified on a TS Quadruplet 480/80. Both mounted on a Fornax 51 and guided with MGEN
M16, NGC6604 and SH2-54 in Scorpio by David Trotter, Sydney, Australia. Equipment: Takahashi FSQ106N Refractor, Sbig STL6303e CCD on an AP 900 Mount
M16, NGC6604 and SH2-54 in Scorpio by David Trotter, Sydney, Australia. Equipment: Takahashi FSQ106N Refractor, Sbig STL6303e CCD on an AP 900 Mount
Messier 16, Pillars of creation by Jose Manuel Perez, Observatori Astronòmic de l'Institut d'Alcarràs (OAIA).
Messier 16, Pillars of creation by Jose Manuel Perez, Observatori Astronòmic de l’Institut d’Alcarràs (OAIA). Equipment: Meade LX200 8″ f10, Sbig ST9.
M16 by Dan Crowson, Animas, New Mexico, USA.
M16 by Dan Crowson, Animas, New Mexico, USA. Equipment: SBIG STF-8300M, Astro-Tech AT12RCT.