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Messier 8 NGC 6523 The Lagoon Nebula
Imaged by Martin S. Ferlito copyright
Gstar-EX Integrating Video Camera
8" Schmidt-Cassegrain on Vixen GP Mount, Stepper Driven. 
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Discovered by Hodierna about 1654.The Lagoon Nebula Messier 8 (M8, NGC 6523) is one of the finest and brightest star-forming regions in the sky. It is a giant cloud of interstellar matter which is currently undergoing vivid star formation, and has already formed a considerable cluster of young stars. This object has been discovered by Giovanni Battista Hodierna before 1654, and classified it as "nebulosa," i.e. of intermediate brightness; it is his No. II.6. It was independently noted as a "nebula" by John Flamsteed about 1680, who cataloged it as his No. 2446. Due to reasons which are not completely clear, at least to the present author [hf], Kenneth Glyn Jones has supposed that Flamsteed may only have seen the cluster within this nebula, a view which we had formerly adopted here. However, Flamsteed's position is close to that later determined by Messier and near the center of the nebula, while the young open cluster, which was later cataloged as NGC 6530, is situated (or at least centered) in the Eastern half of M8.
This object was again seen by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1746, who could resolve some stars and consequently classified it as a cluster. One year later, in 1747, it was observed by Guillaume Le Gentil, who found the nebula together with the cluster. Nicholas Louis de Lacaille has cataloged it in his 1751-52 compilation as Lacaille III.14. When Charles Messier cataloged this object on May 23, 1764, he primarily described the cluster, and mentioned the nebula separately as surrounding the star 9 Sagittarii; his original position is closer to the modern position of the cluster than to that of the nebula. Nevertheless, until recently, most sources identified only the nebula with "Messier 8," a view we reject here: It is clear from Messier's description that he had found both the nebula and the cluster.According to Kenneth Glyn Jones, the Lagoon Nebula has an apparent extension of 90x40 minutes of arc, which is 3 x 1 1/3 the apparent diameter of the full moon, and corresponds to about 140x60 light years if our distance of 5,200 light years should be correct, which is a bit uncertain; newer sources have 4850 (Glyn Jones) to 6500, but David J. Eichler gives the value of 5,200 light years (Eichler 1996).


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