This perfect gas storm in the turbulent Swan Nebula, M17, is located in Sagittarius, 5,500 light-years from Earth. It is a bubbling ocean of hot hydrogen with traces of other elements, such as oxygen and sulfur. Also called Omega Nebula, it acts as a hotbed of new stars.
The torrent of ultraviolet radiation emitted by massive stars sculpts and illuminates wavy designs in the gas. These newly formed stars are located outside the image field, top left. The brightness of these undulations enhances the three-dimensional structure of the object. Ultraviolet radiation digs and heats the surfaces of the cold hydrogen clouds, which glow red and orange.
The intense heat and pressure generate a flow of material from these surfaces, creating a greenish curtain of glowing gas that masks the background structure. The pressure at the ends of the waves can trigger a new star formation inside. The colors represent the various gases, red for sulfur, green for hydrogen and blue for oxygen.
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