Close Up Image of M8 – The Lagoon Nebula

Lagoon Nebula

Close Up of the Lagoon Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula, or M8, is an enormous cloud of interstellar gas and dust that can be found in the constellation Sagittarius.  It is classified as an emission nebula, but it is also referred to as an H II region (a large, relatively low density area of ionized gas where star formation is occurring).  This close-up image of the Lagoon Nebula was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last September.

I thought it would be interesting to post this picture to highlight the beautiful detail in this close-up image.  If you look closely, you can see streams of billowing dust and gas that form soft, almost organic shapes.  It reminds me of corals I’ve seen on the ocean floor.  These shapes are created when the hydrogen cloud in the nebula gets blasted by powerful radiation from stars that have formed in the nebula.

Wide Angle Lagoon and Triffid Nebula

Wide Angle of the Lagoon and Triffid Nebulae

It is estimated that the Lagoon Nebula, M8, is roughly 7,000 light years from the Earth and is thought to be about 110 x 50 light years in size.  In addition to the beautiful shapes noted above, the Lagoon Nebula is also home to several Bok Globules which have been cataloged as B88, B89, and B296.  You can also find the Hourglass Nebula within the Lagoon Nebula which was named by the famous William Herschel (1738 – 1822)

Lagoon Nebula Image Credit:  NASA/ESA

Lagoon-Triffid Nebula Image Credit:  Colour composition by Todd Nolan based on red, green, blue and luminance image acquisition by Jim Misti and Steve Mazlin and with the help of FITS Liberator

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