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The formation of the Lagoon Nebula is a long-standing mystery of astronomy. Situated about 3,800 light years from Earth, the nebula is a stellar nursery where stars of high mass and luminosity are being born. The hottest and brightest stars in the region influence surrounding gas clouds, making them glow in classic "emission nebula" style. SALT may help astronomers learn how the nebula was formed. Through spectroscopic measurements, scientists expect to learn more about the Lagoon Nebula as they promise a first look at how atoms behave in the clouds and give it its distinct appearance.
Image credit: courtesy Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
Photo date: 2005

NGC6152 is a small open cluster of stars, a grouping where the stars all formed at nearly the same time, perhaps a billion years ago. These stars all formed so close together that gravity has kept them together as traveling companions as they have orbited the center of our galaxy since they were born.
Image credit: courtesy Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
Photo date: 2005

NGC6744 is a galaxy very much like our own Milky Way in appearance. A barred spiral galaxy, NGC6744 lies at a distance from Earth estimated at 30 million light years. The galaxy is 150,000 light years in diameter. Like the Milky Way, it contains an estimated hundred thousand million stars.
Image credit: courtesy Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
Photo date: 2005

47 Tucanae is what astronomers refer to as a "globular cluster." Globular clusters are compact regions with anywhere from ten thousand to several million stars. 47 Tucanae is an ancient cluster of several million stars located about 15,000 light years from Earth. The stars in 47 Tucanae are an estimated 10-12 billion years old, placing them among the oldest in our galaxy. Because the stars in clusters like 47 Tucanae are about the same age, they make perfect laboratories for the study of stellar life cycles.
Image credit: courtesy Southern African Large Telescope (SALT)
Photo date: 2005
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