When we humans down here on Earth look up into the night sky at the constellation of Sagittarius, we see prickles of light forming the rough shape of a mythical centaur pulling back his bow, prepared to send an arrow flying through the heavens.
When the Hubble Space Telescope looks at Sagittarius, it sees images that are just as epic.
The Hubble returned a new view of the Lagoon Nebula, contained within Sagittarius. It is almost 3 light-years wide and is located about 5,000 light-years away from Earth. Its dramatic gas clouds and pinkish hue make it a real looker. NASA released the image this week.
NASA notes that the Lagoon Nebula is a popular target for telescope enthusiasts on Earth and describes it as "an active stellar nursery." While the watery name is the popular term for the nebula, its scientific name is Messier 8 (or M8) for the French astronomer Charles Messier who cataloged the nebula in the late 1700s.
"The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust," NASA said.
The Lagoon Nebula has appeared in previous pictures from the space agency, but not with the same level of detail and drama as the new image.
The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, is a joint project from NASA and the European Space Agency. It is responsible for some of the most intriguing images of space ever seen, including the famous showing striking gas columns etched against space in the M16 nebula, popularly known as the Eagle Nebula.