NASA explores the furthest reaches of space every day, and sometimes scientists at the agency bring back the best goodies to share with the general public. Case in point, the space agency shared a breathtaking photo Tuesday of an interstellar nebula, wowing the millions of followers NASA has on Instagram. Now over 24 hours since it was first posted, NASA's latest image of the Lagoon Nebula has tallied a whopping 1.2 million likes and countless comments from those seeking out more information about the cosmic wonder.
"At the center of this image is a massive star 2000,000 times brighter than the Sun," NASA shared as a caption. "Though it may look like a serene cosmic landscape, the Lagoon Nebula is full of turbulent gasses, roaring stellar winds, and intense radiation emanating from a massive star." You can see the incredible photo for yourself below.
"This massive star is still young in a cosmic sense, roughly one million years old, and is throwing off its natal cocoon of material — ionized gasses like hydrogen and nitrogen — seen here from [the Hubble Space Telescope] as red (hydrogen) and green (nitrogen)."
The Lagoon Nebula is over 5,000 light-years away from Earth, or about 24 quadrillion miles from the planet. The nebula was first discovered by Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna in 1654 as he was cataloging nebulous objects in the night sky.
"Located 5,200 light-years from Earth, M8 is home to its own star cluster: NGC 6530 (not visible in the image above). The massive stars embedded within the nebula give off enormous amounts of ultraviolet radiation, ionizing the gas and causing it to shine," NASA says about the nebula on its website.
From our vantage on Earth, the nebula resides within the constellation Sagittarius and can sometimes be seen by the naked eye in the darkest skies on the clearest nights. While the Hubble Telescope can capture the beautiful colors with its imaging devices, the nebula appears grey to the human eye. It's best seen in the month of August.