Pictures of the Trifid Nebula
The Trifid Nebula is an iconic stellar nursery often paired with the Lagoon Nebula in astrophotos.
Given the propensity for nebulae to be named after well-known objects and shapes (see the California Nebula, the Cat's Paw Nebula and the Pacman Nebula, among others), you might be forgiven for expecting the Trifid Nebula to bear a likeness to the marauding alien plants found in John Wyndham's classic post-apocalyptic novel Day of the Triffids.
The reason for the nebula's informal nickname, however, is a little less pop-culture, and instead refers to the term 'trifid' meaning 'split into three segments or lobes'.
M20, or NGC 6514, to give the Trifid Nebula its formal astronomical names, is a stellar nursery in our home galaxy the Milky Way, located about 9,000 lightyears from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius.
It is often paired in astrophotos with the Lagoon Nebula, also in Sagittarius, given the two objects' apparent proximity in the sky.
Pictures of the Trifid Nebula reveal the three lobes of glowing gas separated by dark dust lanes that give the nebula its nickname.
At the centre of the nebula can be seen a group of newly-born, massive bright stars that are releasing streams of intense radiation and sculpting the surrounding cosmic cloud.
The gas and dust essential for new waves of star formation to occur are also being blasted away by this stellar wind, diminishing the chances for new stars to be born in future.
Below is a selection of images of the Trifid Nebula captured by readers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine and astrophotographers from around the world.
And for help finding the Trifid Nebula, read our guide to the best deep-sky objects to see in Sagittarius.