Gorgeous Nebula Photos Reveal 'Pillars of Destruction'
This photo shows a region of the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) called R44. The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile created the image with the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument.
Credit: ESO/A. McLeod

Colorful new images of the Carina Nebula, a massive stellar nursery 7,500 light-years from Earth, reveal that new star births are destroying the very clouds of gas and dust from which they spawned.

Long, finger-like pillars and spires made of cosmic gas and dust protrude into space from all over the Carina Nebula. New images from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile show some of these pillars in unprecedented detail.

These images show several pillars of the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372). The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile created the images with the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument.
These images show several pillars of the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372). The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile created the images with the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument.
Credit: ESO/A. McLeod

A team of researchers led by Anna McLeod, a doctoral student at ESO, captured the images with the telescope's Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument, which can turn observations made from Earth into 3D images. Check out some incredible views of the Carina Nebula in the video below

Clouds of hydrogen gas and dust in space provide great places for new stars to form. But when massive stars form, they betray their home nebula by bombarding it with damaging radiation.

The radiation is so strong that it strips atoms of their electrons and causes the gas to disperse. This process is called photoevaporation, and it's destroying the Carina Nebula and its pillars.

This majestic pillar of the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) is a 3-light-year-tall cloud of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from stars both in its surroundings and inside the cloud itself. The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile created the image with the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument.
This majestic pillar of the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) is a 3-light-year-tall cloud of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from stars both in its surroundings and inside the cloud itself. The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile created the image with the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument.
Credit: ESO/A. McLeod

The ESO researchers who studied the new data and images of pillars in the Carina Nebula said they found a clear correlation between the amount of radiation coming from local stars and the dissipation of the dust and gas in the pillars.

Despite their name, these "Pillars of Destruction" are actually a lot like the iconic "Pillars of Creation," in the Eagle Nebula, a well-known cosmic region photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists aren't yet sure whether the Pillars of Destruction will eventually be destroyed by the stars they create, but ESO plans to continue using MUSE to try to find out.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.