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.
2000 May 21
Explanation: Why is the sky near Antares and Rho Ophiuchi so colourful? The colours result from a mixture of objects and processes. Fine dust illuminated from the front by starlight produces blue reflection nebulae. Gaseous clouds whose atoms are excited by ultraviolet starlight produce reddish emission nebulae. Backlit dust clouds block starlight and so appear dark. Antares, a red supergiant and one of the brighter stars in the night sky, lights up the yellow-red clouds on the upper left. Rho Ophiuchi lies at the centre of the blue nebula on the right. The distant globular cluster M4 is visible just below Antares, and to the left of the red cloud engulfing Sigma Scorpii. These star clouds are even more colourful than humans can see, emitting light across the electromagnetic spectrum.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.