CCD image taken with an ST-1301E CCD camera thru our 20-inch F/8.1 telescope. The field of view is about 13x16 arc minutes with North at the top. This image only shows a portion of the nebula.
M-16 is a bright young star cluster embedded in an emission nebula lined with clouds of interstellar dust. The redness of the surrounding emission nebula gas is caused by electrons recombining with hydrogen nuclei, while the dark regions are dust lanes that absorb light from background sources. Stars are forming within the nebula, also known as the "Eagle Nebula", or, sometimes "The Star Queen Nebula". This gorgeous region lies toward the center of our galaxy, some 7,000 light years distant in the Constellation Serpens. The cluster was probably discovered by the French astronomer de Chésaux in 1746, and catalogued by Charles Messier in 1764. Although Messier refers to 'a faint glow', no other early observers record it. The nebula was probably not discovered until later, when it was found in early photographs by Roberts in 1875 and EE Barnard in 1895. Modern 8-inch telescopes will show the faintly glowing nebula when viewing from dark skies..
Philippe de Cheseaux: (1746) 'A cluster of stars.......'
Charles Messier: (June 3rd, 1764) 'A cluster of small stars enmeshed in a faint glow.......'
Quote from Burnham's Celestial Handbook:
'.....M16 is one of the most spectacular of the diffuse nebulae, and shows an astonishing amount of fascinating detail. Thrusting boldly into the heart of the cloud rises a huge pinnacle like a cosmic mountain, the celestial throne of the Star Queen herself, wonderfully outlined in silhouette against the glowing fire-mist, where, as modern star pilgrims have learned, countless new stars are to be born. In the vast reaches of the Universe, modern telescopes reveal many vistas of unearthly beauty and wonder, but none, perhaps, which so perfectly evokes the very essence I of celestial vastness and splendor, indefinable strangeness and mystery, the instinctive recognition of a vast cosmic drama being enacted, of a supreme masterwork of art being shown.'
Click here for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) image showing the "Pillars of Creation" star forming region that also appears in the Kopernik image above, and here for more info on star formation in M-16.
George Normandin, KAS
June 29th, 2006