New image captures gorgeous pillars before stars destroy them

The Hubble Space Telescope captured its iconic image of the "Pillars of Creation" back in 1995. Now a ground-based telescope has spied the sequel.

This image shows the region R44 within the Carina Nebula, 7,500 light-years away.
ESO/A. McLeod

The violent and powerful process of star creation can also be beautiful. New images from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile show stunning pillar-shaped structures in the distant Carina Nebula, some 7,500 light-years away.

The image above shows massive clouds of dust and gas in a star-forming area. Newly formed stars are actually slowly destroying these clouds by throwing off ionizing radiation that causes the spire and pillar formations to dissipate. It's entirely possible these distant beauties have long since disappeared.

The structures are similar to the iconic "Pillars of Creation" spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope in the Eagle Nebula over two decades ago. Researchers continue to revisit that popular image and have even been able to map it out in three dimensions.

While these specific formations may have long faded away, there's still a lot for scientists to figure out when it comes to the life cycle of stars. Many think the same power from huge stars that destroys lookers like these may also fuel feedback loops leading to the formation of new star-forming areas and more gorgeous sights throughout the universe.