Smoky tendrils of dust line the rose-colored gas of the Omega Nebula in this image from the European Southern Observatory.
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The Omega Nebula, also known as Messier 17, is a star-making factory. The reddish-colored gas and dark strands of dust are the raw materials for making new stars. Near the bottom center of the image, a blazing blue star lights up this section of the nebula. Intense radiation and strong solar winds stream from the new star born from this nebula. Ultraviolet radiation warms and excites hydrogen atoms in the cloud giving it the red color.
Messier 17 is found about 6,000 light-years from Earth toward the rich star fields in the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer. Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux first described the nebula in 1745. But it was English astronomer John Herschel, in 1833, who described the nebula as looking like the Greek letter, omega. Other astronomers offered names such as the Horseshoe Nebula, Swan Nebula, Checkmark Nebula and even Lobster Nebula to describe their observations.