Hubble Telescope Captures Heavenly Vision of Lagoon Nebula

A majesticnew image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals billowing waves of glowinggas and dust at the heart of a bright and active star-forming nebula in deepspace.

Thedelicate-looking clouds in the Lagoon Nebula are sculpted by the intense radiationfrom hot young stars. [New Photo of the Lagoon Nebula]

The whirlsof hydrogen gas are slowly collapsing to form stars, whose bright ultravioletrays illuminate the surrounding gas in a distinctive shade of red.?

The wispytendrils and crashing wave-like features are caused by ultraviolet radiation'sability to erode and disperse the gas and dust into the distinctive shapes thatare visible in the image.

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys captured the dramatic view of theLagoon Nebula.

The LagoonNebula is located more than 4,000 light-years away from Earth, in the constellationSagittarius (the Archer). It is a vast stellar nursery that stretches about 100light-years wide. One light-year is the distance light travels in one year,about 6 trillion miles (9.7 trillion kilometers).

This hotbedof star formation earned its name because of a wide, lagoon-shaped dust lanethat crosses the glowing gas of the nebula. The structure is prominent inwide-field images, but cannot be seen in this new close-up.

In recentyears, astronomers probing the secrets of the Lagoon Nebula have found thefirst unambiguous proof that star formation by accretion of matter from the gascloud is ongoing in this region.

Young starsthat are still surrounded by an accretion disk will occasionally shoot out longwisps of matter from their poles.

Evidence ofthese jets, which are called Herbig-Haro objects, have been found in the LagoonNebula in the last five years, which provides strong support for astronomers'theories about star formation in such hydrogen-rich regions.

The LagoonNebula has been observed by astronomers for centuries, so the new Hubble photois the latest in a long line of observations. In the 18th century, Frenchastronomer Charles Messier included the object in his famous astronomicalcatalogue, dubbing the nebula with an alternate name: Messier 8.

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