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 September 24
Explanation: Stars are forming in dark, dusty molecular cloud LDN 988. Seen near picture center some 2,000 light-years distant, LDN 988 and other nearby dark nebulae were cataloged by Beverly T. Lynds in 1962 using Palomar Observatory Sky Survey plates. Narrowband and near-infrared explorations of the dark nebula reveal energetic shocks and outflows light-years across associated with dozens of newborn stars. But in this sharp optical telescopic view, the irregular outlines of LDN 988 and friends look like dancing stick figures eclipsing the rich starfields of the constellation Cygnus. From dark sites the region can be identified by eye alone. It’s part of the Great Rift of dark clouds along the plane of the Milky Way galaxy known as the Northern Coalsack.