Wednesday, March 25, 2009

For warm summer nights.

So it's been a while since I talked about astronomy here. I've been thinking about it, just not writing about it. But the nights are getting warmer and it's the right time of the year to be outside. So I think I'll just pick up where I left off. And that would be with M-17.

M-17 is a stellar nursery. You can tell by the lovely colors it's painted, and also by the dust. We mothers rarely have time to dust the nursery.
All kidding aside, M-17 is a nebula. It has a bunch of names including the Omega Nebula, the Swan Nebula, the Horseshoe Nebula, or the Lobster Nebula. I think it's interesting that it's called the Omega Nebula because Omega is the last letter in the greek alphabet and often used to mean the end or even death. But this nebula is actually a place of birth. It's one of the places stars are born, a.k.a. a stellar nursery. All that fluffy, billowy stuff that you see? It's dust. And in some areas the dust is thick enough that gravity is starting to pull it together into clumps. If the clump has enough mass to keep pulling in more dust and matter, then as it grows larger and more dense it will start to produce heat. If it can pull in enough gas and dust, the heat from all that matter being compressed will eventually ignite the gases and it will become a star.