01/18/2012 09:17 am ET

New Eagle Nebula Images From Herschel Telescope Show 'Pillars Of Creation'

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released incredible new images captured by the Herschel space telescope.

To the average backyard astronomer, the Eagle Nebula is just a blurry red spot located 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Serpens. But the powerful new technology afforded by the Herschel telescope sheds new light on the region--literally.

In 1995, NASA's Hubble space telescope captured a beautiful view of the star-forming cluster within the Eagle Nebula known as the "Pillars of Creation," which quickly became an astronomical icon. Now, Herschel's images of the Eagle Nebula update the 17-year-old image, revealing new details of the iconic pillars that are each several trillion miles long, and have been carved over the years by light and heat from young stars.

While the Hubble telescope uses optical wavelengths to capture night-sky scenes, Herschel reads far-infrared wavelengths that can pierce through dust in the atmosphere and produce clearer images.

By combining Herschel's data with that of the ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope, astronomers can also visualize the x-ray radiation that the hot, young stars of the Eagle Nebula generate. One of these X-ray images shows the cluster of stars as a rainbow of brightly-colored dots.

Keep clicking to see stunning images of the Eagle Nebula captured by Herschel space telescope.

Captions via ESA.