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Space NASA Science

Pillars of Creation Destroyed 364

anthemaniac writes with news about the Pillars of Creation, an iconic structure in the Eagle Nebula some 7,000 light-years distant. The Hubble Space Telescope's image of this structure is one of the most widely recognized astronomy images ever captured. Now a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggests that the pillars probably toppled 6,000 years ago. From the article: "Astronomers think [a] supernova's shock wave knocked the pillars down about 6,000 years ago. But because light from that region of the sky takes 7,000 years to reach us, the majestic pillars will appear intact to observers on Earth for another 1,000 years or so.'"
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Pillars of Creation Destroyed

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  • Ah ha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:08PM (#17533656) Homepage Journal

    Astronomers think [a] supernova's shock wave knocked the pillars down about 6,000 years ago.

    Just as the the Earth was being created!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      for the MtG geeks out there (I haven't played in years, but still) =]

      Pillars of Creation
      Casting Cost: 3
      1T: Sacrifice Pillars of Creation, put one Earth Token into play. Treat Earth Token as a land which produces either W, R, B, Bk, or G
    • Re:Ah ha! (Score:4, Funny)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:00PM (#17534136) Homepage
      They weren't destroyed, just modded down. Set your telescopes to view -1.
    • Re:Ah ha! (Score:5, Informative)

      by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:18PM (#17534254) Journal
      The earth is actually older than 6,000 years.

      *please mod informative, please mod informative*
    • by msobkow ( 48369 )

      I always liked the fiddly bits...

      Like the "porn beaches" of France and the rest of Europe. *ROTFLMAO*

    • Re:Ah ha! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TemporalBeing ( 803363 ) <`bm_witness' `at' `'> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @10:08AM (#17538618) Homepage Journal
      Astronomers think [a] supernova's shock wave knocked the pillars down about 6,000 years ago.
      Just as the the Earth was being created!
      Actually, even as a Christian I must say not necessarily. Even taking the Bible literally and using a 24x7 day week in Genesis 1 & Genesis 2 there is nothing saying that it the Earth is 6,000 years old. This is because there is a time gap in the Bible - and one that is rather significant in this area - between Genesis 2 and Genesis 3. Many people read over these chapters and just assume that they are in close temporal proximity; when in fact there is no evidence suggesting that.

      A lot of Christians will say the Earth is 6,000 years old based on the ages and the assumption that Adam's age was from his creation in Genesis 1 & 2 and not from the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. Since there is a time gap of unknown length between Genesis 2 & Genesis 3, this assumption can be either correct or incorrect.

      What can be considered Biblically correct is that there have been roughly 6,000 years since the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. Of course, you also have to consider that the years recorded Biblically are 360 day years, not 365 day years. From my own calculations, it falls around 5600 to 5700 years at present (it's been a while since I did the calculations).

      However, that the above does not negate Creationism. It does, however, admit that the Earth itself is of unknown age. For all we know Adam & Eve (and any kids they may have had prior to the Fall of Man, which is possible Biblically) could have lived in the Garden of Eden for millennia or just a few days. Fact of the matter is, we don't know the true age, but we do know that it has been roughly 6,000 years since Adam & Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

      Assuming Astronomers are correct about this, then there could be one of two significant things going on: (1) Assuming the original posters timeline, it could correlate to the Fall of Man; or (2) Assuming another poster's statement of "it was 1000 to 2000 years ago" it could be the turn from BC to AD & possibly correlate to the events in Matthew through John, more specifically the death of Christ on the cross. Now this is just speculation and could be way off.
  • Bummer (Score:3, Funny)

    by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:11PM (#17533684)
    that's it, pack up the space program, nothing left to see out there
  • by EzraSj ( 993720 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:15PM (#17533716)
    I wonder if any of us (that is, humans) will be around to see the destruction, or if anyone alive then will ever know what they looked like today?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by grub ( 11606 )

      I wonder if [...] anyone alive then will ever know what they looked like today?

      Sure, they'll Google "pillars of creation" on their IPv1024-connected computers.
    • by numbski ( 515011 ) *
      You know, I had one of the dumbest thoughts this afternoon that came about from the seti article earlier.

      Perhaps there is other intelligent life out there. Let's say that our radio signals take a long time to get to whomever is listening...perhaps decades (probably longer). Then whomever out there, after researching our radio signals, decides to attempt sending a response...which in turn takes decades to get back to us. It's entirely possible we get a response to radio signals sent 50 years ago....well,
  • by andy314159pi ( 787550 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:16PM (#17533724) Journal
    There was a gimmicky sign left by the pillars of creation:

    If you lived in the Eagle Nebula, you'd be destroyed by now.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:17PM (#17533740) Journal
    Really, when will people learn not to use the past tense for events outside of our past light cone!
    The pillars have already been destroyed by the shockwave
    The guy's modeled the pillars and claims that they were destroyed 6000 years ago, 7000 light years away. But if this is the case, then their destruction is outside of our past light cone. So someone else here and now, moving past as at high velocity, using English in the same way, could claim that this event is actually in their future. It doesn't mean that they could visit the destruction because they're outside of any possible future lightcone of any observer starting from here now. Events outside of our light cones are neither past nor future, and you certainly can't go bandying around the word 'already' when you talk about them.
    • Events outside of our light cones are neither past nor future, and you certainly can't go bandying around the word 'already' when you talk about them.

      You have clearly never watch a time-travel movie, not even a bad time-travel movie.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AuMatar ( 183847 )
      No, already is perfectly correct. It has happened. If you were to instantaneously move to the pillars of creation, they would not be there. So the only correct tense is past.
      • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:28PM (#17533872) Journal
        There is no such thing as "instantaneously".
        • There is no such thing as "instantaneously".

          Sure there is. It just doesn't mean what you think it means.

          "Happening in a time span lower than the response rate of the observer." If I move my mouse, the cursor moves "instantaneously", even though there's a delay significantly higher than c's round trip through mouse, cable, USB bus, CPU, AGP, GPU, VGA cable, monitor control, eyes.
          • by Jerf ( 17166 )

            OK, in the context we're talking about, there's no such thing as "instantaneous". Unless you're some kind of living galaxy that has response times measured in trillions of years.

            I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that that describes nobody reading this.

            Again I say *thbbtttpt*. (That's a raspberry.)
        • by Trogre ( 513942 )
          True, but there's no such thing as "smooth surface" or "vacuum" either. Nonetheless they are important in physics.

        • There is no such thing as "instantaneously".
          How about quantum entanglement?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jerf ( 17166 )
            How about [random physics word]?

            You can't send any information "along" a quantum entanglement. How do you propose to send a timing signal along a channel that can carry no information? How do you propose to define "instantaneous" when you can't even provide a timing signal that matches your definition?
    • by Jerf ( 17166 )
      It is reasonable to set the date of the "collapse" as the day the light can be expected to reach Earth minus today; that's accurate enough and reasonably well defined.

      You are, of course, technically correct. "The best kind of correct", as 1.0 would say.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Trogre ( 513942 )
      Sorry but that is a rather silly claim.

      If the data is correct, then it already has happened. I realise that some poor 100-level physics/relativity courses try to push the idea that events outside the "light cone" (as you like to call it) haven't happened yet but that's baloney. The event has occurred and the pillars are destroyed, light cone or no light cone. We just haven't seen it yet.

      They are ex-pillars.

      They have ceased to be.

      • Next thing you know, they'll find them alive and well in Bolton.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Unfortunately the universe doesn't work like that. It's easy as a human being to imagine being at the supernova event in the Eagle Nebula and then back at Earth instantaneously, outrunning the light that will take 6000 years to reach Earth. The order of events (or even their simultaneity) is based on frame of reference.

        The parent poster is incorrect about the supernova not happening yet in our frame of reference though. In our frame of reference, it happened between 1000 and 2000 years ago. It is the
        • And, furthermore, this is an example of the inability of information to be transmitted faster than light. We will not know whether this prediction is correct until the evidence (photons) travels from the pillars to us. Once it does, we can work out the spacetime coordinates of the event and figure out how long ago it occurred in our local coordinates.

      • I think you need a refresher in physics 101. The theory of relativity isn't just some neato idea sitting around so Slashdot can make lame headlines like "pillars of creation destroyed". Implying that you could possibly know the pillars to have "ceased to be" is the silly claim here. There are many ways of looking at this, the light cone []concept just being one of them. Using a very naive scenario to bring it down to your level, let's put it like this: An immensely powerful space-faring race of beings liked th
        • by Trogre ( 513942 )
          That's all very nice but what you've written about has absolutely nothing to do with relativity, but more to do with scientific observation.

          What has been witnessed is an explosion that, according to our current understanding of the universe, should obliterate the pillars with nothing that we yet know of to prevent it. Therefore it is reasonable to assume with a certain amount of confidence that the scenario described is actually what happened until evidence is presented that suggests otherwise. Of course
    • by Peter Trepan ( 572016 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:46PM (#17534020)
      They willan on-have collapsen.
    • by baldass_newbie ( 136609 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:53PM (#17534086) Homepage Journal
      Actually, this is a *ahem* perfect use of the pluperfect tense [].
    • The above poster is correct, in physics parlance, observers will not agree on the temporal ordering of events separated by a space-like interval (outside the light cone, i.e. the two events can't affect each other because you'd have to travel faster than light to connect them), conversely, they will always agree on the temporal ordering ordering of events separated by a time-like interval (inside the light cone, slower than light). This why the concept of information being transmitted faster than light auto
      • Andromeda Paradox (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tylersoze ( 789256 )
        Here is a really good example where the observers don't even need to be going very fast at all, as the great distances involved make the lines of simultaneity vastly different: ent []. In the Rucker book I mention below there's a thought experiment similiar to this one about a trial to determine if a ship's captain turned on his engines before or after an attack occurred.
    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      If it hasn't been destroyed yet, then when has it been destroyed? If I were to fly toward it in a spaceship at light speed, the event would appear to happen 500 years earlier.

      The simple fact is, it has already happened. It's just that the knowledge of the event hasn't reached us yet, other than the signs that it has will already be destroyed. (Gotta love those time-travel verb tenses.)

    • It's all about the reference frame.

      I hate relativity.
    • There are already so many comments I'm sure this won't be read, but I'll say it anyway:

      Accepting your relativity analysis at face value, it does not mean that the article was wrong to use the word "already". That's correct, within our reference frame. At most it means your hypothetical observer would also be correct to say it "will" happen. In other words, we can say it already happened, we just can't claim that's correct in all reference frames.

      My 2 cents. IAAPBIHSRTM. (I Am A Physicist But I Haven't
    • It has already happened from the pillars perspective but cannot be observed from Earth and thus from Earth's perspective appears that it has not already happened. A light cone is simply a sub-section of the expanding spherical boundry of an observable event starting from time T (ignoring gravitational bodies and the relative motion between observer and event).

      In other words, I think we all understand the cat is dead even though we haven't opened the box to prove it.
    • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:20AM (#17534766) Journal
      So if I fart and you're 100 meters away, will you say that I haven't yet farted because it's outside of your smell cone?
  • Makes Me Curious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moore.dustin ( 942289 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:18PM (#17533760) Homepage
    What else are we looking at and taking images of that is actually nothing like it is in real time. This also boggles my mind with the fact that much of what we see of our universe is actually just nothing like it currently is since the light takes soooo long to get to us. Perhaps I am wrong with that assumption... maybe somebody knows better than I and can clue me in :)
    • I guess one could ague that nothing you look at is in real time, considering the light still has to travel (however fast it may be.) But, compared to light, your brain's processing the images is what really eats ups the time between 'real time' and 'perception's time.'
    • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:36PM (#17533924) Journal
      What else are we looking at and taking images of that is actually nothing like it is in real time.
      Uh, how about, everything ? Absolutely, positively, everything?

      Even on Planet Earth light speed delays can be noticible (it is the bulk of a ping time that goes any significant distance, a highly impressive achievement), but once you leave Earth, everything has a significant light speed delay. The moon is just over a light-second away and the sun roughly eight and a half light minutes. (The exact distance varies over the course of the year.)
    • Re:Makes Me Curious (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Black Copter Control ( 464012 ) <samuel-local&bcgreen,com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:43PM (#17534466) Homepage Journal
      Pretty much anything.

      The farther away anything is, the more it is going to differ from what we're seeing now.

      6000 light years doesn't even make it halfway to the galaxy core ... much less to nearby galaxies (2million light years only gets us to Andromeda -- the nearest major galaxy). For all we know, it was imploded by some master race 1 million years ago, and the creatures who get to watch that explosion will be digging up our fossils and wondering what we had to do with the mass extinction we're in the middle of.

      It takes us up to 20 minutes to figure out if a mars probe went 'poof' during it's last maneuver.
      Voyager is about 10 light-hours out.
      The North Star (one of the brightest stars in the sky until a few years ago), is over 400 light years out.

      Basically, just about nothing is close to us in human terms (under relativistic rules). In fact, The Pillars of Creation are about as close as things can get.

      -- But also remember that as things get closer, we can see more detail so Jupiter at 4 light hours has way more detail than any thing extrasolar. The stuff in andromeda can only be resolved to a resolution of a few light years.

  • Astronomy messes with my head almost as much as time travel...

    So, if we have detected a supernova that exploded 6,000-9,000 years ago, and a picture of the Pillars 7,000 years ago, wouldn't that mean that the supernova is some place between us and the pillars, ~1,000-2,000 lightyears closer to the pillars than the median of us and the pillars? IANAA so could someone correct me if I'm wrong.
    • by syousef ( 465911 )
      Astronomy messes with my head almost as much as time travel...

      Astronomy IS time travel....well time observation to be more correct. What you are looking at happened a long time ago. How long ago depends on how far away you look. What you see is a collage of what once was, that "once" varying with distance. This is always true. It just becomes noticable and important when (and you'll pardon the pun) the distances become astronomical. I was always filled with a sense of awe at that one fact more than just abo
    • by FroBugg ( 24957 )
      Not quite. According to the article, the actual supernova ocurred 6-9ka ago. Another line suggests that it might have been observed on Earth 1-2ka ago.

      The interesting thing isn't the relativistic factors, it's the simple fact that a single supernova can continue to have a significant effect over the course of a thousand years.
  • topple (Score:5, Funny)

    by Feyr ( 449684 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:25PM (#17533834) Journal
    i find the idea that anything in space can "topple" or "fall down" highly amusing

    some of these reporters need to check their gravity :)
  • Cake. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @11:23PM (#17534312)
    This article takes the cake! This has to be the oldest story I've seen posted on Slashdot!
  • by AsnFkr ( 545033 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:30AM (#17534864) Homepage Journal
    .....explain how they can determine something like this if light from that event hasn't even reached us yet? Like, say who now? I assume it just an educated guess based on other activity in the area, but what exactly is it that they look at for clues like this?
    • by AusIV ( 950840 )
      I may be mistaken, but I believe the event that may have destroyed the Pillars occurred between earth and the pillars, in which case we've already seen the light from that event. That doesn't make a ton of sense to me, but it makes more sense than anything else I can think of.
    • by slew ( 2918 )
      Okay, I'll bite...

      Although light from the "nearby" supernova travels at the speed of light towards earth, the shockwave from matter of the supernova which potentially destroyed this formation travels slower (think like the supernova generated lightning and thunder). When the supernova blew, it sent light towards earth and a shockwave towards the "pillars" (at least this is what is suggested by the latest picture).

      FWIW, the bbc has a better article on this s []
  • Babylon 5 cause... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aapold ( 753705 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:43AM (#17534954) Homepage Journal
    They were obviously destroyed during the Shadow War, as documented [] on Babylon 5 episode Into the Fire []...
  • by mstrcat ( 517519 ) * on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @01:31AM (#17535302)
    All of the comments about time travel, light cones, ect are a complete and utter waste of time. While the article doesn't do a very good job of explaining it, the light from the proposed super nova that will cause changes in the Pillars of Creation has already reached us. What hasn't reached us yet is the light from the changed Pillars of Creation. This difference is due to two factors, one small and one huge. The small one is that fact that the star that went nova is closer to us than the Pillars are. The largest factor is the difference in the progagation of the light from the super nova and that of the wave that will physically re-arrange the Pillars. A simple model is the light and sound from an explosion. You'll see the light flash before you hear the bang.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle