Sunday Funnies: Interstellar Dust

Photos of cosmic dust after the jump.

Credit: Máximo Ruiz

This view of the Iris Nebula shows at least three different signatures of interstellar dust, the most apparent of which being the dark clouds that cover most of the image. The blue glow at the heart of the nebula is the result of fine dust particles reflecting starlight, and the faint, reddish hue is from dust reemitting UV starlight at optical wavelengths.

Composite of infrared dust emission taken by the Planck and IRAS satellites. Red corresponds to material at just 10 Kelvin with white as high as 40 K. The pink band toward the bottom is the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and nearly all of the emission comes from dust within just 500 light years of Earth. Exactly why the complex filamentary structure developed is still largely unknown.

Credit: H. Busema

Dust sample collected by NASA in 2003 when Earth passed through the cloud left behind by comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup. The unusual chemical composition matches predicted levels for the nebula out of which our solar system formed, meaning that this grain is likely over 4.5 billion years old! Earth passes through clouds of comet dust several times each year in fact, bringing about the various meteor showers.

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