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.

August 11, 1996

The Snake Nebula in Ophiuchus
Credit and Copyright: B. Wallis and R. Provin

Explanation: What slithers there? The dark curly lanes visible in part of the constellation Ophiuchus belong to the Snake Nebula. The Snake Nebula is a series of dark absorption clouds. Interstellar dust grains - composed predominantly of carbon - absorb visible starlight and reradiate much of it in the infrared. Infrared is a band of light so red humans can't see it. This absorption causes stars in the background to be blocked from our view - and hence the appearance of noticeable voids on the sky.

Tomorrow's picture: Leo Triplet Spiral Galaxy M65

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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&: Michigan Tech. U.