Messier 8

Famously known as the Lagoon Nebula, Messier 8 shines by the ionizing ultraviolet radiation of its embedded young stars.


5,200 light-years

Apparent Magnitude




object type

Emission Nebula

Clouds of gas cover the entire view, in a variety of bold colors. in the center the gas is brighter and very textured, resembling dense smoke. around the edges it is sparser and fainter. several small, bright blue stars are scattered over the nebula.
A portion of the open cluster NGC 6530 appears as a roiling wall of smoke studded with stars in this image from the NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. NGC 6530 is a collection of several thousand stars lying around 4350 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. The cluster is set within the larger Lagoon Nebula, a gigantic interstellar cloud of gas and dust. It is the nebula that gives this image its distinctly smoky appearance; clouds of interstellar gas and dust stretch from one side of this image to the other. Astronomers investigated NGC 6530 using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. They scoured the region in the hope of finding new examples of proplyds, a particular class of illuminated protoplanetary discs surrounding newborn stars. The vast majority of proplyds have been found in only one region, the nearby Orion Nebula. This makes understanding their origin and lifetimes in other astronomical environments challenging. Hubble’s ability to observe at infrared wavelengths — particularly with Wide Field Camera 3 — have made it an indispensable tool for understanding starbirth and the origin of exoplanetary systems. In particular, Hubble was crucial to investigations of the proplyds around newly born stars in the Orion Nebula.
ESA/Hubble & NASA, ESO, and O. De Marco; Acknowledgement: M. H. Özsaraç

Commonly known as the Lagoon Nebula, M8 was discovered in 1654 by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna, who, like Charles Messier, sought to catalog nebulous objects in the night sky so they would not be mistaken for comets. This star-forming cloud of interstellar gas is located in the constellation Sagittarius and its apparent magnitude of 6 makes it faintly visible to the naked eye in dark skies. The best time to observe M8 is during August.

Hubble view of Hourglass region of Lagoon Nebula
This stunning Hubble image maps the chemical elements in a small region of the Lagoon Nebula known as the Hourglass. Blue represents oxygen, green represents hydrogen and red stands for sulfur. Each of the eerie, tornado-like funnels toward the center of the image is roughly one-half light-year long and both appear to be twisting. The bright star at the bottom right of the image is Herschel 36.
A. Caulet (ST-ECF, ESA) and NASA

Located 5,200 light-years from Earth, M8 is home to its own star cluster: NGC 6530 (not visible in the image above). The massive stars embedded within the nebula give off enormous amounts of ultraviolet radiation, ionizing the gas and causing it to shine.

In Hubble’s image of the center of the Lagoon Nebula, dust masks most of the objects within. This image maps the emission from the nebula’s ionized gas. Hydrogen is colored red and nitrogen is green. The blue-white flare at the upper left of the image is scattered light from a bright star just outside the field of view.

visible light (left) and infrared light (right) views of the Lagoon Nebula
These Hubble images provide two diverse views of the heart of the Lagoon Nebula. A visible-light image at left shows the billowing clouds of gas and curtains of dust from which new stars are forming. A near-infrared view at right penetrates these clouds to uncover stars hidden within and behind the nebula.

For more information on Hubble’s observations of M8, see:

locator star chart for M8
This star chart for M8 represents the view from mid-northern latitudes for the given month and time.
Image courtesy of Stellarium

Explore Hubble's Messier Catalog

The following pages contain some of Hubble’s best images of Messier objects.

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Messier 1 (The Crab Nebula)

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Messier 2

Hubble's image of Messier 2 is comprised of visible and infrared wavelengths of light.

Hubble view of M3 - a ball of thousands of stars.

Messier 3

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