M8 – The Lagoon Nebula

Located in the southern constellation Sagittarius towards the central core of our Milky Way galaxy lies this beautiful emission nebula. This giant nebula has formed a considerable cluster of young stars located within. Many people helped “discover” this nebula, from Giovanni Battista Hodierna befor 1654, John Flamsteed around 1680, to Nichola Louis de Lacaille in 1751-2. Charles Messier added the object to his catalog on May 23, 1764 which he described as a cluster and mentioned the nebula separately. William Herschel also assigned two NGC numbers to it, NGC 6530 for the open cluster and NGC 6523 for the nebula.

M8 Located within the box in the image.

M8 Located within the box in the image.

M8 is approximately 3 x 1 1/3 the apparent diameter of the full moon which corresponds to 140×60 light years with an estimated distance of 5,200 light years from Earth. The estimated distance has been logged as somewhere between 4850 – 6500 light years.

From light polluted skies the cluster is the most prominent feature of this nebula/cluster, but with longer viewing and using averted vision the nebula starts to become more clear. There are a couple of pareidolia within this image that I find quite interesting while looking at the image.

M8 – The Lagoon Nebula 07-11-13

This image is 50 images stacked at 2 minutes, and ISO 800, 26 dark frames, and 33 flat frames. Stacked in deep sky stacker and post processing in Photoshop.

All my Messier Object information from: The Messier Catalog. Screen shot of object location taken in Stellarium. Image stacking in Deep Sky Stacker.

Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Modded Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Polar Scope for alignment

M20 and M21 – Trifid Nebula and Open Cluster

M20 – The Trifid Nebula found in the constellation Sagittarius is another H II region, but it’s a whole lot of things rolled into one nebula. Within the nebula is an open cluster of stars, the red portion of the nebula is the emission nebula, the reflection nebula is the blue portion, and there is even a dark nebula forming what looks like gaps in the red nebulosity. This nebula, like all other nebula, is a stellar nursery, and lies 8 light-years away from the bright star in the center of the nebula.

M20 and M21 Location

‘X’ Marks the spot of M20 and M21

The word Trifid means ‘divided into three lobes,’ the dark nebula running through the red emission nebula forms the three lobes.

The open cluster, M21 just north of the Trifid Nebula at low magnification should be in the same view (depending on your telescope or camera). M21 is a cluster of relatively young stars, astronomically speaking, at only 4.6 million years old. Not visible to the unaided eye, but easily visible with a small telescope or a pair of binoculars. This cluster is relatively dim, and lies roughly at a distance of 4.25 thousand light-years from Earth.

My Observation: This nebula is a little over 1° north of the Lagoon Nebula and the cluster of stars within the red emission part shine brightly. The only part of the nebula that is visible from my location is the emission nebula and the dark nebula cutting through it. It’s very faint and you need to use your averted vision to see any detail. Laying low on the horizon also makes this a difficult object to get much detail from, but is a wonderful treat to the eyes when you see it.

M20 and M21 - Trifid Nebula and Open Cluster. 6-14-12

M20 and M21 – Trifid Nebula and Open Cluster. 6-14-12

M20 & M21 – The Trifid Nebula and Open Cluster. This is a re-edit of the same data previously collected.

This is a composite of 38 images at 30 seconds a piece stacked with 41 dark frames. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

M8 – The Lagoon Nebula

This beautiful interstellar cloud is towards the southern horizon during spring/summer months in the constellation Sagittarius. M8 is an emission nebula around 4,000-6,000 light-years away from Earth, and is roughly 110 by 50 light-years in diameter. It is classified as an H II region which is a low-density cloudy of ionized gas meaning that star formation has recently, in astronomical terms, taken place.

'X' Marks the spot of M8 - The Lagoon Nebula

‘X’ Marks the spot of M8 – The Lagoon Nebula

Remember that through a telescope a nebula isn’t going to be rich with color like you see in photos from other astronomers or from the Hubble Space Telescope. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to light to see the colors in low light conditions, so they appear gray in color when viewed through a telescope or binoculars.

My Observation: In the telescope with my light polluted skies, and with how low M8 sits on the southern horizon it’s hard to make out much nebulosity. I can pick out a small section that is a little gray where the nebula is located, but mainly I can see the central cluster of stars. These stars through the eyepiece almost form a bit of a smiley face using just the brightest stars within the cluster. In the image below the bright spot of the nebula towards the top is about all I can see through my telescope, which may be a result of my light polluted skies. I really need to get out to darker locations now that summer weather is finally happening here in the Adirondacks.

M8 - Lagoon Nebula

M8 – Lagoon Nebula

This image was taken on June 10, 2012 and is 36 images stacked at 30 seconds a piece giving me a total of 18 minutes of light collection along with 20 dark images. Using my Omni XLT 150 and Canon 350D prime focus. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and edited in Gimp. I also did a layer mask to remove some of the overexposed areas of the bight patches of nebula illuminated by the bright stars near the top.