Image Description

This image spans the boundary between the constellations Serpens, Sagittarius and Scutum along the galactic equator.  The bright object near center is an emission nebula designated M17 or NGC6618, commonly called the "Omega" or "Swan" due to it shape.  Several star clusters and other emission nebula are also visible. 
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Emission nebulae are clouds of hot ionized gasses, mostly hydrogen, which fluoresce with a red light when illuminated by ultraviolet radiation from nearby stars.  The red glow which suffuses the entire image indicates a large amount of intrestellar hydrogen gas is present along the galactic equator toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy.