The dusty face of the Eagle Nebula and its surroundings are revealed in this image based on data from NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE). WISE detects infrared light, or a range of wavelengths longer than what the human eye can see. This large star forming region is about 5,700 light years away from Earth and is most famous for being home to the the “Pillars of Creation,” a region famously imaged by NASA’s Hubble and James Webb space telescopes. The WISE data reveals the entire structure of the nebula surrounding the pillars, which themselves can be seen as a faint yellow-green feature inside the white circle.
While the WISE view of the “Pillars” is not as sharp as those taken by Webb and Hubble, the telescope’s wide field of view allows us to explore the extended nebula around it. When viewed in visible light, the dust is dark and opaque. In these infrared wavelengths, the dust becomes more translucent, and emits infrared light, shown in green, yellow, and red in this image.
The data used in this image came from WISE’s primary mission which ran from 2009 to 2011. In 2013, NASA took the spacecraft out of hibernation and began using it to track and study near-Earth objects. The mission and the spacecraft were renamed NEOWISE. However, the data is still being used by astronomers to study objects and regions outside our solar system.
Blue and cyan are used to represent infrared light at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, while green and red display longer wavelengths of 12 and 22 microns, respectively.