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.

2021 October 29

Haunting the Cepheus Flare

Image Credit & Copyright: Leo Shatz

Explanation: Spooky shapes seem to haunt this dusty expanse, drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus. Of course, the shapes are cosmic dust clouds visible in dimly reflected starlight. Far from your own neighborhood, they lurk above the plane of the Milky Way at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away. Over 2 light-years across and brighter than most of the other ghostly apparitions, vdB 141 or Sh2-136 is also known as the Ghost Nebula, seen at the right of the starry field of view. Inside the nebula are the telltale signs of dense cores collapsing in the early stages of star formation. With the eerie hue of dust reflecting bluish light from hot young stars of NGC 7023, the Iris Nebula stands out against the dark just left of center. In the broad telescopic frame, these fertile interstellar dust fields stretch almost seven full moons across the sky.

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