Messier 17 (Image Credit: ESO)

Messier 17 has many names, which include M17, the Omega Nebula, and the Swan Nebula. No matter what you call it, it can be found approximately 5,000 light-years from Earth toward the Sagittarius constellation.

Thousands of stars continue to take shape within the depths of this nebula, which boasts many famous neighbors—like the Lagoon Nebula, the Eagle Nebula and the Trifid Nebula. As clouds of gas and dust collapse, and newly-forged stars flicker on for the first time, they energize the gas and sculpt the dust, creating a complex and varied stellar nursery. If they didn't exist, M17 would be less than impressive. In fact, its stars collectively shine brighter than the Sun by a factor of around ten million.

This image—a three-color composite taken using the ISAAC near-infrared instrument on the 8.2-M VLT ANTU Telescope—highlights the H II regions within the Omega Nebula. Additionally, huge columns of dust, dark nebulae, add an extra layer of contrast to an otherwise colorful scene. (See a larger image here)

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