The Lagoon Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula

I think I’ve posted this, but I just got my Photoshop back.. so it’s easy to bring out amazing points of interest without compromising the nature of what’s pictured. To bring things out a bit more.

The main feature of this is the hot-pink Lagoon Nebula (Messier Object 8) near the center. Other points of interest are the Trifid Nebula almost directly above. To the far left is a fuzzy orange patch, a cluster of old orange stars. At the top-center is part of the Sagittarius Star Cloud, an interior arm of our galaxy that is peeking through a ‘window’ in the dust that lies between us and the center of the Milky Way.

Back to the main feature (The Lagoon), us humans have poor color-recognition in low-light situations, and being that this is over 4,000 light years away, it appears almost grey through binoculars and telescopes. With more sensitive instruments, even as common as the Canon Powershot S90 I took this with, longer exposures can reveal it’s true bright pink hue.

Other neat things about this.. it’s easy to spot with binoculars and a little knowledge of where to look. It’s above and to the right of the giant ‘teapot” in the Sagittarius constellation. It has a brightness magnitude of 6.0. This means in a dark enough sky on a clear night, specifically when the moon is on hiatus (amazing as it is, it can be an attention hog), it is within range of the naked human eye. It will most likely be a ‘diverted eye’ object. This means it is easy to see when not staring at it while it’s in the center of your visual plain. Look slightly to one side and suddenly it will pop out. Look back and you will definitely see it, but it will dim. It is an odd focus function in our eyes concerning the rods in our eyes.

Amazing physical facts: Like I said before, it is a 6.0 magnitude object and about 4,100+ light years away towards the galactic center. However, it is still about 20,000 ly from the central black hole that motors our galaxy, Sagittarius A* (pronounced Sagittarius A Star – we are @ 25,000 ly away in comparison). Despite the small area it occupies from our vantage point, this hot, ionized cloud of hot gas and newborn stars is huge – roughly 110 light years by 50 light years. Does not sound too big being that our galaxy is over 100k light years, right? Allow me to put this in perspective by comparing it to the size of our solar system. I will give you four figures because the size of our system can be considered the orbit of our furthest planet Neptune, the Kuiper Belt, or our solar system’s leftovers in the distant Oort Cloud.

#1 Orbit of the farthest planet, Neptune
8.44 light-hours, or 0.000963 light-years

#2 Kuiper belt
approximately 15 light-hours, or 0.0017 light-years

#3 Termination Shock
approximately 22 light-hours or 0.0025 light-years

#4 Oort Cloud
approximately 1 light-year

Amazing, right? We are so small. Last features I will list is that the main source of the light and color are several new stars, however a particularly rare O-type star is near the center. It ionizes the surrounding cloud, rips gas from it’s neighboring stars, and also causes a tornado structure of dust inside the nebula.



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