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The Eagle nebula, M16 (NGC 6611) in Serpens

Date created: 1988-02-05

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Messier 16 is a cluster of young stars which formed about 2 million years ago from the gas and dust which still surrounds them. The stars are concentrated in upper centre of picture. In colour images these stars as seen as pale blue, and stars of this type are much hotter than the Sun and can be up to thirty times more massive. The dark intrusions visible across the face of the nebula, are condensations of dusty material which might one day collapse into yet more stars, should they survive the radiation from the bright stars, which is gradually etching them away. Tye nebula itself is bright red in colour pictures, and regions of photo-ionised hydrogen like these in M16 are usually found in the spiral arms of galaxies and are often associated recent star formation. This example is about 6000 light years distant, in the constellation of Serpens Cauda.

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory