The universe is vast and mysterious. Scientists have discovered a lot of incredible objects, and one of them is Nebula (plural: Nebulae).
Nebula is named after the Latin word for “cloud”. In fact, it is a gigantic interstellar (located between the stars) cloud of dust and gas, mainly of hydrogen and helium gasses.
There are four major groups of nebulae:
1. Diffuse nebulae – star forming regions
These nebulae are also called nurseries of the Universe.
In the huge areas of hydrogen, gravity pulls the material together into large clumps. The larger it becomes, the more material it attracts. When the gas squeezes harder and harder, it makes the area hotter, and when it is hot enough it becomes a newborn star.
An example is the Orion Nebula suited in the Milky Way.
The Orion Nebula is the most active star formation region in our galaxy.
Nebulae get their wonderful glow by the brightness of the newborn stars. Without them, they are dark and cold clouds.
2. Planetary nebulae
First of all, these type of nebulae have nothing to do with actual planets. Planetary Nebulae are very round and bright, just like a planet. When early astronomers first saw them, they thought they must be planets.
These nebulae are formed by the slow death of ordinary stars.
An example is the Butterfly Nebula.
From afar, it looks very peaceful and delicate, just like a butterfly. In fact, it is made out of raging clouds of gas, heated to more then 36 000 degrees Fahrenheit, moving with an incredible speed.
3. Supernova remnant
Unlike the planetary nebulae, where stars die slowly, in these type of nebulae the stars die with a huge explosion. The explosion spreads the star material across the huge space. The leftover from the explosion forms a nebula, which later can form new stars.
An example is the Crab Nebula.
This nebula was discovered 1000 years ago by Chinese astronomers.
4. Dark nebulae
These type of nebulae are made out of cloud and dust. They are visible only because of the brightness of the stars that are located behind them. Dark nebulae are like a silhouette that take the shape from the light that we do not see.
An example is the Horsehead Nebula.
It is made out of tick dust clouds that block the light that comes from the stars behind. Even if it is a dark nebula, it is not cold. In fact, it is very hot.
While exploring the nebulae, we can see the life-cycle of the universe. One star dies, and another one is born, using the same material of the dead star. Not so far from the life-cycle of the human!
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