This stunning cloud formation of dust and gas in a small region of the Eagle Nebula (or M16) is known as the Pillars of Creation.

First spotted by the Hubble Telescope in 1995, astronomers at Nasa have taken a new snapshot of the iconic view to celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of its discovery.

Nasa says that although "such butte-like features are common in star-forming regions, the M16 structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative".

The image shows "never-before-seen details of three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars".

This latest photograph of the pillars has been taken with near-infrared light - giving a much crisper image for astronomers to study and for the layman to admire.

The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars is material getting heated up and evaporating away into space. We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution.

The gaseous pillars are actually getting ionized, a process by which electrons are stripped off of atoms, and heated up by radiation from the massive stars. And then they are being eroded by the stars’ strong winds and barrage of charged particles, which are literally sandblasting away the tops of these pillars.

  • Paul Scowen, Arizona State University
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