Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2003 August 21
Explanation: About 5,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Sagittarius and the center of our galaxy, lies the bright star forming region cataloged as M17. In visible light, M17's bowed and hollowed-out appearance has resulted in many popular names like the Horseshoe, Swan, Omega, and Lobster nebula. But what has sculpted this glowing gas cloud? This Chandra Observatory image of x-rays from M17 provides a clue. Many massive young stars are responsible for the pink central region of the false-color x-ray picture, their colliding stellar winds producing the multimillion degree gas cloud which extends ten or so light-years to the left. When compared with visible light images, this x-ray hot cloud is partly surrounded by the nebula's cooler gas. In fact, having carved out a central cavity the hot gas seems to be flowing out of the horseshoe shape like champagne from an uncorked bottle ... suggesting yet another name for star forming region M17.
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& Michigan Tech. U.