The Fighting Dragons of Ara may sound like a Tom Baker-era Doctor Who story, but it is in fact probably one of the best nicknames given to any deep-sky astronomical object.
NGC 6188 – to give it its formal designation – is an emission nebula in the constellation Ara about 4,000 lightyears away. It can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere sky.
NGC 6188 is an active star-forming region, and newborn stellar giants carve out the incredible shapes seen in the dark cosmic dust, and cause surrounding gas to glow by blasting it with streams of charged particles known as stellar winds.
NGC 6188 is about 600 lightyears across, and its nickname is undoubtedly a result of astronomers observing the nebula and seeing two dragons facing off within the twists and curls of the dark dust.
Below is a selection of images of the Fighting Dragons captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers.
For advice on photographing a nebula, read our guide to deep-sky astrophotography and our tutorial on deep-sky image processing.
And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
NGC 6188, the fighting dragons of Ara Shawn Nielsen, remotely via Siding Springs Observatory, Australia, March 2016 and October 2020. Equipment: SBIG STL-11000M camera, Takahashi FSQ ED 106mm refractor, Paramount ME EQ mount
Rim Nebula, or ‘The Hands’ by Christian vd Berge, Kiripotib, Namibia. Equipment: APM 107/700 triplet, Riccardi 0.75 reducer, Fornax 51, Nikon D600, Lacerta MGEN.
Fighting Dragons of Ara by Shawn Nielsen, Siding Spring Observatory, Australia. Equipment: Takahashi FSQ ED 106mm refractor, SBIG STL-11000M CCD, Paramount ME mount, Maxim DL Pro 5 for camera control, acquisition and guiding. Focusmax for autofocusing.
NGC 6188 The Fighting Dragons of Ara by Tom Bishton, Brisbane, Australia. Equipment: ED120 Black Diamond Refractor, AZEQ6 Mount, ST80 Guidescope, Synguider, Canon 600D modded.
Fighting Dragons of Ara by Rafael Compassi, Presidente Lucena, Brazil. Equipment: SW 8″, ASI1600mm-cool, ZWO EFW, Optolong 1.25″ LRGB filters.
NGC6188 & NGC6164 in HaRGB by Haim Huli, Kibutz Ramat Hakovesh, Israel. Equipment: ASA 12″ ,ASA DDM85 mount, FLI 8300 Mono
Fighting Dragons of Ara by Rafael Compassi, Presidente Lucena, Brazil. Equipment: 80mm f/7 triplet APO, ASI1600MM-C, Ha, Oiii