Planetary Display


4.6 billion years ago, our solar system formed from a cloud of gas and dust similar to the one pictured here, obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope originally in 1995, and now in this higher-resolution image obtained in 2014. This cloud of gas and dust, the Eagle Nebula, is in our Milky Way galaxy and is 7,000 light years away. The tallest pillar is about 4 light years tall and contains enough material to form thousands of star systems. The smallest tendrils seen at the top of the pillars are regions of star formation that are close to the size of our own solar system. Given the time it has taken for light to reach the Hubble Space Telescope, some of these regions may have collapsed, causing ignition of the proto-stars and formation of new planets. Image credit NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).