Friday, November 23, 2012

The Pipe Nebula

East of Antares and towards the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, there are dark spots that extend over fields full of stars.

Cataloged in the early twentieth century by astronomer EE Barnard, these dark interstellar dust clouds include B59, B72, B77 and B78, which are seen in silhouette against the starry background.

Their combined form suggests the cannula and the bowl of a pipe, hence the popular name of the Pipe Nebula. This deep and extensive image was recorded after nearly 24 hours of exposure time of very dark skies of Chile's Atacama Desert. It covers an area of 10 by 10 degrees in the constellation Ophiuchus.

The Pipe Nebula complex is part of the Ophiuchus dark clouds at a distance of about 450 light years. The dense cores of gas and dust inside the Pipe Nebula are collapsing to form stars.

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