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.

2011 June 30
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Star Factory Messier 17
Credit: ESO, INAF-VST, OmegaCAM
Acknowledgement: OmegaCen/Astro-WISE/Kapteyn Institute

Explanation: Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, the star factory known as Messier 17 lies some 5,500 light-years away in the nebula-rich constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this degree wide field of view spans almost 100 light-years, courtesy of the European Southern Observatory's new VLT Survey Telescope and OmegaCAM. The sharp, false color image includes both optical and infrared data, following faint details of the region's gas and dust clouds against a backdrop of central Milky Way stars. Stellar winds and energetic light from hot, massive stars formed from M17's stock of cosmic gas and dust have slowly carved away at the remaining interstellar material producing the cavernous appearance and undulating shapes. M17 is also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula.

Tomorrow's picture: VAR!

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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