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The Dark Side of the Nebula

Inkspots, Snakes & Dark Letters

There are many types of beautiful nebulae ranging from Emission Nebulae, Reflection Nebulae , Supernova Remnants and Planetary Nebulae. All these types of nebulae can be seen both visually and in many deep space images. However, there is another type that gets less attention though they are quite fascinating – Dark Nebulae.
Dark Nebulae are made of cold molecular gas (mostly Hydrogen) and dust particles that obscure the light of objects behind them, hence the name 'Dark' or absorption nebulae. You can see them embedded in other nebulae (sometimes referred to as Bok Globules) and throughout the galaxy. When looking at the Milky Way we notice darker areas and dust lanes – those are dark nebulae.
When seen as part of an emission nebula, the dark areas, e.g. the Pillars of Creation within the Eagle Nebula, that is actually were new star creation is happening. Hot ionized gas which is what we see in emission nebula is a poor candidate for star creation. Star creation requires very cold molecular gas that can collapse under gravity and generate new proto-stars. Below are three Dark Nebulae I imaged recently. Click on each image below to find out more.

Inkspot Nebula

The 'E' Nebula

Snake Nebula

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