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APOD: Molecular Cloud Barnard 68 (2014 Dec 14) Image Credit: FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT Antu, ESO http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141214.html Explanation: Where did all the stars go? What used to be considered a hole in the sky is now known to astronomers as a dark molecular cloud. Here, a high concentration of dust and molecular gas absorb practically all the visible light emitted from background stars. The eerily dark surroundings help make the interiors of molecular clouds some of the coldest and most isolated places in the universe. One of the most notable of these dark absorption nebulae is a cloud toward the constellation Ophiuchus known as Barnard 68, pictured above. That no stars are visible in the center indicates that Barnard 68 is relatively nearby, with measurements placing it about 500 light-years away and half a light-year across. It is not known exactly how molecular clouds like Barnard 68 form, but it is known that these clouds are themselves likely places for new stars to form. In fact, Barnard 68 itself has been found likely to collapse and form a new star system. It is possible to look right through the cloud in infrared light. http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/paranal/instruments/fors.html http://www.eso.org/projects/vlt/ http://www.eso.org/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=141214 #APOD

The Strangest Black Holes in the Universe

Photo Credit: Alain R. | Wikimedia Commons<p>Slide 1 of 21<p>Introduction<p>Black holes are gigantic cosmic monsters, exotic objects whose gravity is so …

Planet Uranus: Facts About Its Name, Moons and Orbit

Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun and the first to be discovered by scientists. Although Uranus is visible to the naked eye, it was long …

Astronomy

Comet Lovejoy’s return set to be cosmic treat for amateur astronomers

Bluish-green comet, bright enough to be easily seen with binoculars, making closest approach to Earth in 11,500 years<p>A glowing green comet is making its closest approach to Earth and providing amateur astronomers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will not come again for 8,000 years.<p>On a …

Flashes from faster-than-light spots may help illuminate astronomical secrets

(Phys.org)—If you sweep a laser pointer across the Moon fast enough, you can create spots that actually move faster than light. Anyone can do it.<p>At a …