‘Pillars of Creation’ Photo Was Captured When Pillars Were Already Long Gone

Captured on April 1, 1995 by the Hubble Telescope, the photograph Pillars of Creation is one of the most famous space images ever made. Here’s a crazy fact though: did you know that the “pillars” seen in the photo were already long gone by the time the image was captured? Astronomers have concluded that the pillars — which measure up to 4 light years in length — were destroyed about 6,000 years ago by the shock wave from a supernova. Because of how long it takes light to travel across such vast distances, we can currently see the shock waves approaching the pillars but won’t actually see their destruction for another thousand years or so!

(via Wikipedia via Photographs on the Brain)

  • Oliver Lea

    I’m not sure this is really a crazy fact, but then, that’s just me. 

  • Senen L

    News like these make me think about how impossibly mindboggling the universe is. 

  • Rainer Riegler

    it’s not exactly news, it’s just a fact that light is pretty fast and those pillars are really far away

  • Anonymous

    Cancel that trip, then

  • Anonymous

    Starlight, by the time it reaches our eyes, is very old news indeed. Often, many millions of years old. Nothing at astronomical distances that we have ever seen “is,” they simply “were”.  The “Pillars” are still there until we have evidence otherwise.

  • Rex Maximilian

    Even the sun as we see it is the sun from 8 minutes ago… The moon as it was a second-and-a-half ago. Really puts our place in the universe into perspective!

  • Krodjunk

    Just curious… if light speed is the fastest way to transmit information (in this case photographic), and we still see the Pillars, how did astronomers determine that the pillars were obliterated thousands of years ago if their light is still getting here today? To put it another way…can astronomers magically see across vast distances of space faster than the speed of light?

  • orazio pugliese

    On earth, instead there are people who still believe the universe and man were created by God

  • Francois

    i think it is because the shock wave from the supernova is not as fast as the light from the explosion: after the explosion it took a thousand year for the shock wave to disturb the gas cloud, and now we are just looking at the intermediate state that displays the exploding super nova and the pillar.
    To take a earth bound analogy, if we think about the atomic bomb explosion, you see the light before getting the shock wave. I think it is the same up there, with just a “small” difference in scale.

  • Phillip Reed

    Welcome to a concept called the Relativity of Simultaneity. It’s one of the issues that crops up due to the Theory of Relativity. We can, as a thought experiment, think about what’s going on now even for something that’s 6000 lightyears away. But what does “now” really mean? Turns out, “now” is local (in terms of the universe). Relativity shows us that we really can’t establish a universal “now” in any meaningful sense. Here’s an interesting article:

  • Guest

    what about neutrino telescopes?

  • Anonymous

    As opposed to what? All the denizens of a supernova cloud being brilliantly able to recognize a mind-blowing universe devoid of the supernatural, then disappearing in a poof of absoluteness?

    You use “still” like it means eventually there will be only “scientific types” populating this imploding planet. Ever consider the fact that that’s never going to happen and that the two are not mutually exclusive either?

  • Warrenk

    captured on April 1st – common guys! wake up! 

  • Guest

    Yes, like me. Seeing the magnitude of space, and the wonder and design of it, makes believing in God easier, not harder. You were probably just trying to make trouble by your post, but this story has nothing to do with the drum you are trying to beat.

  • Killermotion

    I guess you will find out one day weather you want to, or not. There is deffinately an absolute truth to that.

  • Claire

    It’s even more nuts that something’s length can be measured in light years!

  • Alfred Moya

    How the fuck do they know that?

  • Mitchell Johnson

    The fact they are suggesting is crazy is that when you look into space, you’re actually looking into the past.

    For those who didn’t already know that, I could see how it would be a little crazy.