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.

2012 November 23
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The Pipe Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution for Science)

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 represents nearly 24 hours of exposure time recorded in very dark skies of the Chilean Atacama desert. It covers a full 10 by 10 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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