Behold: the colourful cloud complex of one of our nearest star forming regions.
And they call it a ‘dark nebula’. Honestly. To wit:
Rho Ophiuchi itself is a binary star system visible in the blue reflection nebula just to the left of the image center. The star system, located only 400 light years away, is distinguished by its multi-colored surroundings, which include a red emission nebula and numerous light and dark brown dust lanes. Near the lower left of the Rho Ophiuchi molecular cloud system is the yellow star Antares, while a distant but coincidently-superposed globular cluster of stars, M4, is visible just to the right of Antares. Near the image top lies IC 4592, the Blue Horsehead nebula. The blue glow that surrounds the Blue Horsehead’s eye — and other stars around the image — is a reflection nebula composed of fine dust. On the featured image right is a geometrically angled reflection nebula cataloged as Sharpless 1. Here, the bright star near the dust vortex creates the light of surrounding reflection nebula. Although most of these features are visible through a small telescope pointed toward the constellations of Ophiuchus, Scorpius, and Sagittarius, the only way to see the intricate details of the dust swirls, as featured above, is to use a long exposure camera.
(Image: Mario Cogo (Galax Lux))
Behold: NGC 6543 – the brightest and most detailed known planetary nebula, from our perspective at least. The Cat’s Eye Nebula is composed of gas expelled in the death throes of a Sun-like star. To wit:
This nebula‘s dying central star may have produced the outer circular concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. The formation of the beautiful, complex-yet-symmetric inner structures, however, is not well understood. The featured image is a composite of a digitally sharpened Hubble Space Telescope image with X-ray light captured by the orbiting Chandra Observatory. The exquisite floating space statue spans over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into this Cat’s Eye, humanity may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution … in about 5 billion years.
(Image: NASA, ESA, Hubble Legacy Archive; Chandra X-ray Obs.; Rudy Pohl)
Behold: the massive stars, dust mountains and energetic lights of one of the most picturesque regions of star formation in the Local Group Of Galaxies, aka N11. To wit:
…the region is visible on the upper right of many images of its home galaxy, the Milky Way neighbor known as the Large Magellanic Clouds (LMC). The featured image was taken for scientific purposes by the Hubble Space Telescope and reprocessed for artistry by an amateur to win a Hubble’s Hidden Treasures competition. Although the section imaged above is known as NGC 1763, the entire N11 emission nebula is second in LMC size only to the Tarantula Nebula. Compact globules of dark dusthousing emerging young stars are also visible around the image. A new study of variable stars in the LMC with Hubble has helped to recalibrate the distance scale of the observable universe, but resulted in a slightly different scale than found using the pervasive cosmic microwave background.
(Image: NASA, ESA; Josh Lake)
Behold: NGC 2359 a cosmic cloud about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major.commonly known as ‘Thor’s Helmet’ on account of its winglike spurs, 30 light years across. To wit:
In fact, the helmet is more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble’s centre inflates a region within the surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution….The remarkably detailed image is a mixed cocktail of data from broadband and narrowband filters that captures natural looking stars and the glow of the nebula’s filamentary structures. It highlights a blue-green colour from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.
(Image: Ignacio Diaz Bobillo)
An infrared image of the Helix Nebula, 700 light years away, taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.
The two light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white dwarf has long been considered an excellent example of a planetary nebula, representing the final stages in the evolution of a Sun-like star.
The ‘dancing ghost’ pareidolia of the dark nebula SH2-136. It’s like this all the time apparently.
Astronomy Picture Of The Day (NASA)