ROYAL OBSERVATORY, EDINBURGH / AAO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL OBSERVATORY, EDINBURGH / AAO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Optical image of the Lagoon Nebula (M8, NGC 6523) in the constellation of Sagittarius. The Lagoon Nebula is a HII region about 30 light years across & at a distance of about 4000 light years. It is mainly composed of hydrogen gas which is ionised & lit up by the ultraviolet radiation of nearby hot stars. The dark spots visible throughout the nebula are known as "Bok globules", which are thought to be dense clouds of interstellar dust & gas going through a phase of contraction that may eventually lead to the formation of protostars.
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