The awe-inspiring deep-space Pillars of Creation are showcased on the third of Numiscollect’s ‘Space: The Final Frontier’ coins

It was in 1995 that the Hubble Telescope, launched in 1990, pointed its camera at M16, also called the Eagle Nebula, and captured the breathtaking image of an active star-forming region that became dubbed as the ‘Pillars of Creation’. Soaring almost five light years, this stunning formation of cold molecular hydrogen and other gases, is battered by ultraviolet light from a nearby cluster of stars, which are slowly eroding it.

Actually, we should say were slowly eroding it, because the pillars possibly don’t exist any more, and probably haven’t for well in excess of 5-6,000 years! How can that be? The pillars are approximately 7,000 light years away from Earth, so the image (the light) captured by Hubble, is actually 7,000 years old. It’s been estimated that the pillars were probably destroyed by a supernova shockwave about a thousand years after this view, so they’ve been gone since before the Egyptians were raising the pyramids on the plains of Giza! Or have they? A more recent theory is that they will escape the destruction, and could continue to exist for another 100,000 years. The universe is simply amazing…

As for scale, they are vast. Just the left-hand finger extending up is almost a colossal 40 trillion km in size. For comparison, it’s about 9 billion km from the Sun to Neptune, so it’s almost 4,500 times bigger than that! The Eagle Nebula itself, of which the Pillars of Creation are a small part, is estimated to be around 70 light years in size, and its brightest star is visible from Earth using just binoculars.

Whatever their fate, this is an incredible cosmic structure, in a cosmos full of them. For its 25th anniversary, Hubble photographed the pillars again in much higher definition, and in a greater number of wavelengths. It’s almost become a part of the Hubble Telescope mythos, and we hope it continues to be so for many years to come. It’s now been joined by the James Webb Telescope, which launched just three months ago, and is capable of detecting objects 100 times fainter than Hubble. Fantastic times for the astronomer.

Numiscollect’s latest entry in their Space: The Final Frontier series has already had a big boost just by choosing the Pillars of Creation as their subject. They haven’t needed to do much more than reproduce reality, but Smartminting has been employed on this three-ounce silver coin to give it some crisp high-relief, to make the pillars ‘pop’, and the quality of the colour application is plain for all to see. Also depicted on this face is a representation of a black hole, that most gigantic of stellar phenomena (the one at the centre of the Milky Way is 4 million times more massive than our sun) based on a new visualisation from 2019, by NASA.

Even for their three-ounce weight, these are expansive coins, reaching out to 65 mm in diameter – quite apt given the subject matter. It’s issued for Palau, and has that striking common obverse filled with astronomical elements. We’ve always been fans of coins that make the effort to enhance the often overlooked obverse face, and this is no exception. It comes boxed with a C.O.A., of course, and has a mintage of 333 pieces. The best of the series to date, in my opinion, but how can you go wrong when nature is so breathtaking…

COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 93.3 grams
FINISH Black Proof
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, Smartminting, Colour
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes