The Omega Nebula – also known as the Swan Nebula – is a gigantic star-forming region: one of the largest in our galaxy, in fact.
It was discovered in 1745 by Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, a Swiss astronomer, and was eventually added to Charles Messier’s deep-sky reference guide, the Messier Catalogue, as entry M17.
The Omega Nebula is 5,500 lightyears away in the Sagittarius constellation and is often photographed along with the Eagle Nebula, M16, due to their apparent proximity in the sky.
Because the nebula is such a prolific star-forming region, it contains many young, newly-born stars, and is host to one of the youngest star clusters in the Milky Way, aged just 1 million years old.
Strong streams of charged particles emanating from these stars known as solar winds carve and sculpt the surrounding dust and gas, destroying the ingredients necessary for new stars to be born.
Omega Nebula by John Maclean, Norman Lockyer Observatory, Sidmouth, Devon, UK. Equipment: Atik 314L+, Equinox 80 APO, WOZ66, QHY5, PHD, Ha, OIII, SII
Ultraviolet radiation from the young, massive stars causes the cosmic cloud to glow, producing a beautiful nebula just ripe for photographing.
The Omega Nebula is also known as the Swan Nebula, the Horseshoe Nebula, the Checkmark Nebula and the Lobster Nebula, most of these names being a reference loop structure that can be seen in images.
The astronomer John Herschel sketched the nebula in 1833 and thought it looked rather like the Greek letter Omega, which is probably why ‘Omega Nebula’ seems to be the most common nickname for M17.
Below is a selection of images of the Omega Nebula captured by BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers and astrophotographers.
For advice on photographing nebulae, read our guide to deep-sky astrophotography or learn how to fine-tune your images with our tutorial on deep-sky image processing.
And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Omega Nebula by Anas Albounni, Razeen desert, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, June 2018 and August 2019. Equipment: Starlight Xpress Trius SX 694 mono CCD camera, Sky-Watcher Esprit 100ED triplet apo refractor, Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6 mount
Swan Nebula by Brian.M.Johnson, Kelling Heath, UK. Equipment: Stellacam 3 NP127 refractor, analog video.
Cygnus Mosaic by Martin Holland, Grimsby, UK. Equipment: ED80, QHY9mono, NEQ6
M17 – Omega Nebula by Jonathan Blake, Andover, UK. Equipment: RC 8″, Starlight Xpress Trius-694, HEQ5 mount.
M17 by Mark Large, Colchester, UK. Equipment: Altair Astro 10″ RCT, modified Canon EOS 1000D
M17, The Swan Nebula by Ron Brecher, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Equipment: SBIG STL-11000M, Baader Ha, R, G, B filters, 10″ f/6.8 ASA astrograph, Paramount MX, QHY5 guide, 80 mm f/6 Stellar-Vue refractor.
M17 Omega Nebula by David Trotter, Sydney, Australia. Equipment: SBIG STL6303e, AP900 mount, Maxim DL, PixInsight
Omega Nebula Panorama by José J. Chambó, Hoya Redonda, Valencia, Spain. Equipment: GSO 8″ f/3.8, Canon EOS-100D
The Swan Nebula – M17 by Rafael Compassi, Presidente Lucena, Brazil. Equipment: SW 8″ F/5, ASI1600mm-cool, ZWO EFW, Optolong LRGB 1.25″.
M17 by Ronald Piacenti Junior, Observatorio Norma, Brasilia-DF, Brazil. Equipment: Celestron C6 Schmidt-Cassegrain, HEQ5 Pro mount, ZWO ASI174MC camera, focal reducer 0.63, optilong CLS filter
M17 Omega Nebula by Tom Bishton, Gold Coast Hinterland, Australia. Equipment: Black Diamond ED120 Refractor, AZEQ6 Mount, ST80 Guidescope, Synguider, Canon 600D (modded)