A supernova did.
Remember the “Pillars of Creation” imaged in the Eagle Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995? (That’s the magnified overlay below.)
Sorry to inform you, but they’re likely gone. This new image from the Spitzer Space Telescope shows in red the shockwave from a supernova that obliterated them about six millennia ago. That’s sometime around the creation of the universe if you’re counting with Bishop Ussher. Why don’t we see it? The light we see leaving the Eagle Nebula is 7000 years old. Another ten centuries, and the sights will catch up with us.
The supernova blast is thought to have occurred between 6,000 and 9,000 years ago, so what astronomers see now is evidence of the blast just before its destructive shock wave reached the pillars.
Astronomers have long predicted that a supernova blast wave would destroy the famous pillars. One earlier study concluded that the pillars would be destroyed sometime within the next million years. About 20 stars in the region are ripe for exploding and it was only a matter of time before one (did).
It’s good to know the Spitzer Space Telescope is all over space discoveries like this.