Astronomy Picture of the Day

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.

2005 August 3
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The Busy Center of the Lagoon Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Michael Sherick

Explanation: Stars are battling gas and dust in the Lagoon Nebula but the photographers are winning. Also known as M8, this photogenic nebula is visible even without binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The energetic processes of star formation create not only the colors but the chaos. The red-glowing gas results from high-energy starlight striking interstellar hydrogen gas. The dark dust filaments that lace M8 were created in the atmospheres of cool giant stars and in the debris from supernovae explosions. This spectacular portion of the Lagoon Nebula was created in scientifically-assigned colors from light emitted in very specific colors by hydrogen, silicon, and oxygen. The light from M8 we see today left about 5000 years ago. Light takes about 50 years to cross this section of M8.

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