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.

2004 September 21
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M24: A Sagittarius Starscape
Credit & Copyright: Fred Calvert & Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF

Explanation: Many vast star fields in the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy are rich in clouds of dust, and gas. First and foremost, visible in the above picture are millions of stars, many of which are similar to our Sun. Next huge filaments of dark interstellar dust run across the image and block the light from millions of more stars yet further across our Galaxy. The bright red region on the left is part of the Omega Nebula, an emission nebula of mostly hot hydrogen gas also known as M17. A small bright grouping of stars near the image centre is the open cluster M18, while the long bright streak of stars just right of centre is M24. On the far right of the image is the picturesque red emission nebula IC 1283 flanked by two blue reflection nebulas NGC 6589 and NGC 6590. These objects are visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of Sagittarius.

Tomorrow's picture: open space

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