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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day January 25, 2023: The Dark Nebula of the Enchanting Lynds

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a mesmerizing snapshot of the Lynds Dark Nebula captured by astrophotographer Joshua Carter.

Nebulae exist in the space between stars, known as interstellar space. According to NASA, there is even a nebula close to Earth that may be the remnant of the dying star. Called the Helix Nebula, it is located about 700 light-years away from Earth. NASA captures the nebulae using its Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope and the new James Webb Space Telescope.

Lynds’ Dark Nebula is a catalog of more than 700 dark nebulae discovered by American astronomer Barbara Lynds in the 1960s. Dark nebulae are clouds of dust and gas that block the light from stars and other objects behind them, making them appear dark in the night sky. That is why they are also called absorption nebulae.

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a mesmerizing image of Lynds’ Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 that appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas visible only in long telescopic exposures of the area. It is located about 1,500 light-years away in the Belt and Sword of Orion. The dark nebulae are often used as markers to locate other objects in the sky, such as stars and galaxies, and provide a unique opportunity to study the properties of dust and gas in the universe.

The photo was taken by Joshua Carter, an amateur astrophotographer from Wakayama, Japan.

NASA explains

To some, the dark shape resembles a mythical bogeyman. Scientifically speaking, Lynds’ Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas visible only in long telescopic exposures of the region. In contrast, the brighter reflection nebula vdB 62 just above and to the right of center in the featured image is easier to see. LDN 1622 is near the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, close in the sky to Barnard’s Loop, a large cloud that surrounds the rich complex of emission nebulae in the Belt and Sword of Orion.

With backward contours, LDN 1622’s obscuring dust is believed to be at a similar distance, perhaps 1,500 light-years away. At that distance, this 2° wide field of view would be about 60 light-years across. Young stars lie hidden in the dark expanse and have been revealed in infrared images from the Spitzer Space Telescope.


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