One of the most identifiable interstellar cloud in the sky, the Horsehead in Orion, is part of a large, dark, molecular cloud. Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first discovered on a photographic plate in the late 1800s. The red glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the cloud.
This expansive (1-degree wide) telescopic view looks out along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the cloud rich constellation Cygnus the Swan. It is centered on a bright hydrogen region recorded in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101.
The two brightest objects in the night sky appeared to go right past each other last week. On the night of May 19, Earth's Moon and the planet Venus were visible in the same part of the sky, and at closest approach were less than one degree apart.
The dust is so thick in the center of NGC 1333 that you can hardly see the stars forming. Conversely, the very dust clouds that hide the stars also reflects their optical light, giving NGC 1333's predominantly blue glow the general designation of a reflection cloud.
Where are the stars in M81, one of the closest major spiral galaxies? To help find out, astronomers took a deep image in ultraviolet light of the sprawling spiral with the Earth-orbiting Galex telescope. Hot stars release more ultraviolet than cool stars, and are frequently associated with young open clusters of stars and energetic star forming regions.
Staring across interstellar space, the alluring Cat's Eye 1ies three thousand light-years from Earth. A classic planetary cloud, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star.
One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky and similar in size to the Milky Way, big, beautiful spiral M81 lies 11.8 million light-years away in the northern constellation Ursa Major. This remarkably deep image of the region reveals details in the bright yellow core, but at the same time follows fainter features along the galaxy's gorgeous blue spiral arms and sweeping dust lanes.
Many spiral galaxies have bars across their centers. Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a modest central bar.
What could cause a cloud to appear square? No one is quite sure. The star system known as MWC 922, however, appears to be imbedded in a cloud with just such a shape.
Higher than the highest mountain, higher than the highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Aurora rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers.
If you traveled to the Moon's near side, you could see the same event as a solar eclipse, with the disk of our fair planet Earth completely blocking out the Sun. For a moon-based observer's view, graphic artist Hana Gartstein offers this composite illustration.
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