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.

2015 April 22
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Colorful Star Clouds in Cygnus
Image Credit & Copyright: André van der Hoeven

Explanation: Stars can form in colorful surroundings. Featured here is a star forming region rich in glowing gas and dark dust toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus), near the bright star Sadr. This region, which spans about 50 light years, is part of the Gamma Cygni nebula which lies about 1,800 light years distant. Toward the right of the image is Barnard 344, a dark and twisted dust cloud rich in cool molecular gas. A dramatic wall of dust and red-glowing hydrogen gas forms a line down the picture center. While the glowing red gas is indicative of small emission nebulas, the blue tinted areas are reflection nebulas -- starlight reflecting from usually dark dust grains. The Gamma Cygni nebula will likely not last the next billion years, as most of the bright young stars will explode, most of the dust will be destroyed, and most of the gas will drift away.

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