Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2009 May 22
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East of Antares
Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (ESO)

Explanation: East of Antares, dark markings sprawl through crowded star fields toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Cataloged in the early 20th century by astronomer E. E. Barnard, the obscuring interstellar dust clouds include B59, B72, B77 and B78, seen in silhouette against the starry background. Here, their combined shape suggests a pipe stem and bowl, and so the dark nebula's popular name is the Pipe Nebula. The deep and expansive view was recorded in very dark Chilean skies. It covers a full 10 by 7 degree field in the pronounceable constellation Ophiuchus. The Pipe Nebula is part of the Ophiuchus dark cloud complex located at a distance of about 450 light-years. Dense cores of gas and dust within the Pipe Nebula are collapsing to form stars.

Tomorrow's picture: light-weekend

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