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A Perfect Storm of Turbulent Gases
in the Omega/Swan Nebula (M17)
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Name: M17, NGC 6618, Omega Nebula, Swan Nebula
Description: Gaseous Nebula in the Milky Way Galaxy
Position (J2000): R.A. 18h 20m 46.15s Dec. -16° 09' 26".69
Constellation: Sagittarius
Distance: About 5,500 light-years (1690 parsecs)
Dimensions: The image is roughly 1.9.arcminutes (3.1 light-years or 0.95      parsecs) across.
Exposure Date(s): May 29/30, 1999
Exposure Time: 3.4 hours
Image Credit: NASA, ESA and J. Hester (ASU)
Release Date: April 24, 2003

More Images:  N1119  N1044  N0030  N0211g  N0925  N0313  N1201  N0211c
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Resembling the fury of a raging sea, this image actually shows a bubbly ocean of glowing hydrogen gas and small amounts of other elements such as oxygen and sulfur.

The photograph, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, captures a small region within M17, a hotbed of star formation. M17, also known as the Omega or Swan Nebula, is located about 5,500 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. The image is being released to commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of Hubble's launch on April 24, 1990.

The wave-like patterns of gas have been sculpted and illuminated by a torrent of ultraviolet radiation from young, massive stars, which lie outside the picture to the upper left. The glow of these patterns accentuates the three-dimensional structure of the gases. The ultraviolet radiation is carving and heating the surfaces of cold hydrogen gas clouds. The warmed surfaces glow orange and red in this photograph. The intense heat and pressure cause some material to stream away from those surfaces, creating the glowing veil of even hotter greenish gas that masks background structures. The pressure on the tips of the waves may trigger new star formation within them.

The image, roughly 3 light-years across, was taken May 29-30, 1999, with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The colors in the image represent various gases. Red represents sulfur; green, hydrogen; and blue, oxygen.