(via APOD: 2013 February 2 - Herschel’s Andromeda)
Image Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz
Herschel Space Observatory is the ESA’s amazing infrared telescope. Like NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, it is capable of seeing cooler (literally, as in lower temperatures) things in the universe. In this case, the dust lanes of our Local Group partner, M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. The redder material in the outskirts is quite cool, barely warmed above absolute zero by the sparse numbers of stars, while the blues in the center show hot dust energized by the crowd of stars in the core of the galaxy.
The dust itself can be used to trace molecular gas as well (both are usually found together in cool clouds) and show how much star formation is possible in Andromeda. These clouds of gas and dust tend to get shocked by supernovae or passing stars and start condensing and collapsing to form new generations of stars.

(via APOD: 2013 February 2 - Herschel’s Andromeda)

Image Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz

Herschel Space Observatory is the ESA’s amazing infrared telescope. Like NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, it is capable of seeing cooler (literally, as in lower temperatures) things in the universe. In this case, the dust lanes of our Local Group partner, M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. The redder material in the outskirts is quite cool, barely warmed above absolute zero by the sparse numbers of stars, while the blues in the center show hot dust energized by the crowd of stars in the core of the galaxy.

The dust itself can be used to trace molecular gas as well (both are usually found together in cool clouds) and show how much star formation is possible in Andromeda. These clouds of gas and dust tend to get shocked by supernovae or passing stars and start condensing and collapsing to form new generations of stars.

(via APOD: 2012 September 28 - Stars in a Dusty Sky)
Image Credit & Copyright: John Davis
Out toward Pegasus, in the big square that makes up the middle of the constellation (an asterism sometimes called The Great Square), there a known region of molecular cloud in the sky. This is a rare one that isn’t in the plane of the galaxy, but it is nearby, relatively. The bright star above is Markab, powering a whole lot of the reflection effects in the dust cloud. These clouds are only about 1000 light-years away. Click through to get to the full-size version. It’s worth it.

(via APOD: 2012 September 28 - Stars in a Dusty Sky)

Image Credit & Copyright: John Davis

Out toward Pegasus, in the big square that makes up the middle of the constellation (an asterism sometimes called The Great Square), there a known region of molecular cloud in the sky. This is a rare one that isn’t in the plane of the galaxy, but it is nearby, relatively. The bright star above is Markab, powering a whole lot of the reflection effects in the dust cloud. These clouds are only about 1000 light-years away. Click through to get to the full-size version. It’s worth it.

(via Ceci *est* une pipe | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)
Wow! The @ESO folks  (#ESO50years) have captured this amazing shot of the “mouth” of the Pipe Nebula from the MPG/ESO 2.2m telescope in the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Another combination of dark and reflection nebula like the one in Corona Australis posted earlier, this one also shows the effect of seeing the light coming though (instead of being reflected off) a thinner amount of dust. Note the color of the background stars toward the edges of the dark nebula. The light is still being scattered with a blue preference, but that means that the blue reflection light would be seen from a vantage point on the other side of the nebula. Instead, we see the redder light that manages to get through the thin spots in the dust.
As Phil says, this is a huge complex of interstellar gas and dust, and there are stars forming inside of it. In fact, the stars we see lighting up the reflecting parts of the nebula are newly formed stars that just happen to be on “our side” of the complex cloud of dust particles.
As if all that weren’t enough, this is just a zoom on the one part of the Pipe Nebula. Here’s the full thing, which includes catalog members Barnard 59 (the part in the image above), Barnard 65-67, and Barnard 78:

This is, again, from the folks at the European Southern Observatory.
One final cool thing. See the fuzzy stars in the middle of Barnard 59? Those aren’t background stars that are so bright they’re shining through. Those are stars being born right before your eyes! (Or, being born 600-700 years ago, as the nebula is about that many light-years away.)

(via Ceci *est* une pipe | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)

Wow! The @ESO folks  (#ESO50years) have captured this amazing shot of the “mouth” of the Pipe Nebula from the MPG/ESO 2.2m telescope in the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Another combination of dark and reflection nebula like the one in Corona Australis posted earlier, this one also shows the effect of seeing the light coming though (instead of being reflected off) a thinner amount of dust. Note the color of the background stars toward the edges of the dark nebula. The light is still being scattered with a blue preference, but that means that the blue reflection light would be seen from a vantage point on the other side of the nebula. Instead, we see the redder light that manages to get through the thin spots in the dust.

As Phil says, this is a huge complex of interstellar gas and dust, and there are stars forming inside of it. In fact, the stars we see lighting up the reflecting parts of the nebula are newly formed stars that just happen to be on “our side” of the complex cloud of dust particles.

As if all that weren’t enough, this is just a zoom on the one part of the Pipe Nebula. Here’s the full thing, which includes catalog members Barnard 59 (the part in the image above), Barnard 65-67, and Barnard 78:

This is, again, from the folks at the European Southern Observatory.

One final cool thing. See the fuzzy stars in the middle of Barnard 59? Those aren’t background stars that are so bright they’re shining through. Those are stars being born right before your eyes! (Or, being born 600-700 years ago, as the nebula is about that many light-years away.)

(via APOD: 2012 September 27 - Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis)
Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Lorenzi (Glittering Lights)
Corona Australis is the Southern Crown. (Here in the northern hemisphere, we have Bootes holding Corona Borealis in the night sky. Bootes, the herdsman, is the constellation that Arcturus is in. Remember “arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica”. Spica is in Virgo.)
In any case, there’s a crown in the skies of the southern hemisphere too, and that’s where you can see this interesting collection of dust, along with a globular cluster…at least in the same line of sight.
The blue light you see in the nebulae is from the stars embedded in the dust, and is being reflected back toward us. Blue light scatters more readily in the dust of the interstellar medium, so more blue than red is being bounced off the “grains” (think something the size of soot) back at us.
The dark areas are where the dust is so thick between our point of view and the star field that we can’t see through it in visible wavelengths. An infrared image would see through it, and into it, to see what’s going on.
The cloud of dust creating this nebular complex is about 500 light-years away, but the globular cluster in the upper left of the image, while appearing close, is actually about 30,000 light-years away, far beyond the dust and stars of the nebulae. They’re very old, gravitationally bound collections of stars that orbit the galaxy, but not necessarily in the galactic plane. This one is NGC 6729.

(via APOD: 2012 September 27 - Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis)

Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis 
Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Lorenzi (Glittering Lights)

Corona Australis is the Southern Crown. (Here in the northern hemisphere, we have Bootes holding Corona Borealis in the night sky. Bootes, the herdsman, is the constellation that Arcturus is in. Remember “arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica”. Spica is in Virgo.)

In any case, there’s a crown in the skies of the southern hemisphere too, and that’s where you can see this interesting collection of dust, along with a globular cluster…at least in the same line of sight.

The blue light you see in the nebulae is from the stars embedded in the dust, and is being reflected back toward us. Blue light scatters more readily in the dust of the interstellar medium, so more blue than red is being bounced off the “grains” (think something the size of soot) back at us.

The dark areas are where the dust is so thick between our point of view and the star field that we can’t see through it in visible wavelengths. An infrared image would see through it, and into it, to see what’s going on.

The cloud of dust creating this nebular complex is about 500 light-years away, but the globular cluster in the upper left of the image, while appearing close, is actually about 30,000 light-years away, far beyond the dust and stars of the nebulae. They’re very old, gravitationally bound collections of stars that orbit the galaxy, but not necessarily in the galactic plane. This one is NGC 6729.

(via APOD: 2012 September 3 - M45: The Pleiades Star Cluster)
Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler
The Pleiades (M45) open star cluster is frequently referred to as the “Seven Sisters”, but this shot clearly shows that the “seven” are only the brightest stars.
There are, in fact, over 3000 stars in the Pleiades cluster, some of which are, yes, brown dwarfs, but others are just hard to see with the naked eye, especially with the very bright stars around them.
You can also see the neat reflection nebulae around the biggest and brightest stars.

(via APOD: 2012 September 3 - M45: The Pleiades Star Cluster)

Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

The Pleiades (M45) open star cluster is frequently referred to as the “Seven Sisters”, but this shot clearly shows that the “seven” are only the brightest stars.

There are, in fact, over 3000 stars in the Pleiades cluster, some of which are, yes, brown dwarfs, but others are just hard to see with the naked eye, especially with the very bright stars around them.

You can also see the neat reflection nebulae around the biggest and brightest stars.

(via APOD: 2012 June 12 - Thackerays Globules)
IC 2944 is a stellar nursery in Centaurus, about 5900 light-years away. That’s the background for these “dark globules” discovered by A.D. Thackeray in 1950 in South Africa. They’re gas and dust, probably the remains of a much larger cloud of interstellar medium which gave rise this area becoming a stellar nursery. The last few stars that can form may already be collapsing into existence in these globules.
As stars form with a gas and dust cloud, they begin to exert pressure on the remaining matter as the hot, young stars burn intensely. Stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation push outward and carve out empty regions around the new stars. All of this pressure, though, also creates new densities in the matter which is left, creating conditions ripe for another generation of stars to be born. This process continues until the matter has all been pulled into star formation or blown away by the stars.
Credit & Copyright: T. Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), & N.S. van der Bliek (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

(via APOD: 2012 June 12 - Thackerays Globules)

IC 2944 is a stellar nursery in Centaurus, about 5900 light-years away. That’s the background for these “dark globules” discovered by A.D. Thackeray in 1950 in South Africa. They’re gas and dust, probably the remains of a much larger cloud of interstellar medium which gave rise this area becoming a stellar nursery. The last few stars that can form may already be collapsing into existence in these globules.

As stars form with a gas and dust cloud, they begin to exert pressure on the remaining matter as the hot, young stars burn intensely. Stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation push outward and carve out empty regions around the new stars. All of this pressure, though, also creates new densities in the matter which is left, creating conditions ripe for another generation of stars to be born. This process continues until the matter has all been pulled into star formation or blown away by the stars.

Credit & CopyrightT. Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), & N.S. van der Bliek (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

(via APOD: 2012 May 26 - At the Edge of NGC 891)
NGC 891 is edge-on to us, as you can see in this Subaru/Hubble combination. This allows us to have a better view of the dust and gas blown away from the plane of the galaxy in filaments. This is likely from supernovas or star formation in the disk itself.
Credit: Composite Image Data - Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Legacy Archive, Michael Joner, David Laney (West Mountain Observatory, BYU); Processing - Robert Gendler

(via APOD: 2012 May 26 - At the Edge of NGC 891)

NGC 891 is edge-on to us, as you can see in this Subaru/Hubble combination. This allows us to have a better view of the dust and gas blown away from the plane of the galaxy in filaments. This is likely from supernovas or star formation in the disk itself.

Credit: Composite Image Data - Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Legacy Archive
Michael Joner, David Laney (West Mountain Observatory, BYU); Processing - Robert Gendler

(via APOD: 2012 April 13 - A Dust Devil of Mars)
The HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this shot of a dust-devil, a column of swirling, rising dust formed when the surface is heated and convection currents form in the air, sometimes beginning to rotate.
Note, the dust devil is not moving in the direction that the plume would seem to imply, that is only an effect of the winds in the atmosphere blowing from the west.
Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

(via APOD: 2012 April 13 - A Dust Devil of Mars)

The HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this shot of a dust-devil, a column of swirling, rising dust formed when the surface is heated and convection currents form in the air, sometimes beginning to rotate.

Note, the dust devil is not moving in the direction that the plume would seem to imply, that is only an effect of the winds in the atmosphere blowing from the west.

Credit: HiRISEMROLPL (U. Arizona)NASA

(via APOD: 2012 February 6 - Dust of the Orion Nebula)
Highlighted by the bright, hot stars that it helped to form, the dust in the Orion Nebula shows up as brown in this image, while the glowing gas is in red. All of this material will be slowly destroyed or dispersed into the galaxy by the star formation taking place.
Image Credit & Copyright: Nicolás Villegas

(via APOD: 2012 February 6 - Dust of the Orion Nebula)

Highlighted by the bright, hot stars that it helped to form, the dust in the Orion Nebula shows up as brown in this image, while the glowing gas is in red. All of this material will be slowly destroyed or dispersed into the galaxy by the star formation taking place.

Image Credit & Copyright: Nicolás Villegas

(via APOD: 2011 October 21 - Clouds of Perseus)
Tucked in among the stars in the constellation Perseus, this panorama of dust from a giant molecular cloud sits a few hundred light years above the galactic plane of the Milky Way, reflecting starlight from the galaxy.
NGC 1499 is the red nebula just left of center, it’s glow powered by the strong ultraviolet light coming from Xi Persei, the bright blue star next to it. It’s called the California Nebula, but I immediately thought of a fire angel when I saw it.
IC 348, a young star cluster, and the Flying Ghost Nebula also make an appearance right of center, as does NGC 1333, a star forming region just at the upper right edge.
Credit & Copyright: Image Data - Bob Caton, Al Howard, Eric Zbinden, Rogelio Bernal Andreo; Processing - Rogelio Bernal Andreo

(via APOD: 2011 October 21 - Clouds of Perseus)

Tucked in among the stars in the constellation Perseus, this panorama of dust from a giant molecular cloud sits a few hundred light years above the galactic plane of the Milky Way, reflecting starlight from the galaxy.

NGC 1499 is the red nebula just left of center, it’s glow powered by the strong ultraviolet light coming from Xi Persei, the bright blue star next to it. It’s called the California Nebula, but I immediately thought of a fire angel when I saw it.

IC 348, a young star cluster, and the Flying Ghost Nebula also make an appearance right of center, as does NGC 1333, a star forming region just at the upper right edge.

Credit & CopyrightImage Data - Bob CatonAl HowardEric ZbindenRogelio Bernal AndreoProcessing - Rogelio Bernal Andreo