This object is a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from a stellar nursery called the Eagle Nebula. 7,000 light-years distant from us, the soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometers tall. When Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux discovered the Eagle Nebula in the mid-eighteenth century, he only described the cluster of stars surrounding it. Charles Messier independently rediscovered it in 1764 as part of his catalog, dubbing it M16.
The Dogon people are an ethnic group in Mali, West Africa, reported to have traditional astronomical knowledge about Sirius that would normally be considered impossible without the use of telescopes. According to Marcel Griaule's books Conversations with Ogotemmêli and The Pale Fox they knew about the fifty-year orbital period of Sirius and its companion prior to western astronomers.
As we head into the traditional western Holiday Season, I'd like to present this Hubble Space Telescope imagery Advent Calendar. Every day, for the next 25 days, a new photo will be revealed here from the amazing Hubble Space Telescope. As I take this chance to share these images of our amazing Universe with you, I wish for a Happy Holiday to all those who will celebrate, and for Peace on Earth to everyone. - Alan