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Rethinking an Astronomical Icon

The Eagle's EGGs: Not so fertile

In 1995, less than 2 years after astronauts installed a device to correct the Hubble Space Telescope's blurry vision, NASA released a picture that captivated millions. In it, eerie blue-green pillars of gas and dust rise up like stalagmites in a cave. In a glimpse of the universe that's both science and art, a team of Arizona astronomers captured what they thought were nests brimming with stellar embryos. "I distinctly recall the first time I saw the image, in my office on a quiet holiday, a few days before the press release came out," says astronomer Mark J. McCaughrean of the Astrophysical Institute in Potsdam, Germany. "I was blown away . . . and immediately went in search of someone to show it to."

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