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.

2008 July 15
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Gas and Dust of the Lagoon Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Fred Vanderhaven

Explanation: This beautiful cosmic cloud is a popular stop on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius. Eighteenth century cosmic tourist Charles Messier cataloged the bright nebula as M8, while modern day astronomers recognize the Lagoon Nebula as an active stellar nursery about 5,000 light-years distant, in the direction of the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Striking details can be traced through this remarkable picture, processed to remove stars and hence better reveal the Lagoon's range of filaments of glowing hydrogen gas, dark dust clouds, and the bright, turbulent hourglass region near the image center. This color composite view was recorded under dark skies near Sydney, Australia. At the Lagoon's estimated distance, the picture spans about 50 light-years.

Tomorrow's picture: almost pluto

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