Eagle Nebula Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the Eagle Nebula, which can be seen in the night sky. Read on to find out what it's made of, what it includes, and what special job it has.

A Star Factory

About 6,500 light years away from Earth, there's a huge cloud of dust and gas called the Eagle Nebula. The word 'nebula' is a Latin word that means 'cloud' or 'mist.' While a cloud made out of dust and gas might not sound very interesting, it's actually an amazing place! One of the reasons the Eagle Nebula is so fascinating is that it's actually a star factory!

Part of the Eagle Nebula
nebula

New stars are created as the gas condenses. This means the tiny bits that make up the gas (called molecules) slow down, combine, and turn into a liquid. It takes a really long time; scientists think it's probably as long as 100 million years, but these molecules will keep combining and changing until they make a new star.

The Pillars of Creation

Inside the Eagle Nebula is an unusual formation of gases that look like three huge pillars. They are about 57 trillion miles high! Scientists named these the Pillars of Creation because they are creating stars.

Pillars of Creation
pillars

Huge new stars near the pillars cause some of the gas in the pillars to make bubbles of gas and dust. These bubbles pop out of the top of the pillars. Inside each bubble, new stars are forming. Although the bubbles look small to us, one bubble is actually the size of our solar system!

Scientists think that there are also other places inside of the Eagle Nebula where stars are made, such as the Stellar Spire, which is another tall pillar-like formation.

Our Neighbor in the Milky Way

Like Earth, the Eagle Nebula is in the Milky Way Galaxy. We can see it in the night sky in the Serpens constellation, if we look through a pair of binoculars or a telescope.

Scientists who study the stars and other objects in the sky are called astronomers. The first astronomer who discovered the Eagle Nebula was Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, who noticed some of the stars surrounding the cloud of gas.

A few years later, another astronomer, Charles Messier, discovered the stars in the Eagle Nebula again. He named them Messier 16, or M16. Later, they became known as the Snow Queen Cluster.

Thanks to Photography

Once scientists had stronger telescopes and could take photographs of objects in space, they realized that the cluster of stars was actually inside a cloud of gas and dust. The name 'Eagle Nebula' includes all the objects inside the cloud, including the stars and the beautiful gas formations such as the Pillars of Creation.

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