September 23, 2015

A Cosmic Rose With Many Names

This new image of the rose-coloured star forming region Messier 17 was captured by the
Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.
It is one of the sharpest images showing the entire nebula and not only reveals its full size
but also retains fine detail throughout the cosmic landscape of gas clouds, dust and newborn stars.

(September 23, 2015)  The nebula pictured here may have had more names bestowed upon it over the ages than any other object of its kind. Although officially known as Messier 17, its nicknames include: the Omega Nebula, the Swan Nebula, the Checkmark Nebula, the Horseshoe Nebula and — lest those with more of a more marine bent miss out — the Lobster Nebula.

Messier 17 is located about 5500 light-years from Earth near the plane of the Milky Way and in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The object spans a big section of the sky — its gas and dust clouds measure about 15 light-years across. This material is fueling the birth of new stars and the wide field of view of the new picture reveals many stars in front of, in, or behind Messier 17.

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