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Interstellar Gas and Dust

The gas between stars is mostly hydrogen and helium scattered at varying densities between the stars in our galaxy and other galaxies. The proportions of the gases are similar to those in the Sun. Interstellar gas supplies the raw material for star formation. Carbon monoxide and hydroxyl molecules (CO and OH) have also been detected within interstellar gas, along with highly ionized oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and silicon, which are likely remnants of past supernovae. The dust is made up of tiny grains of carbon, iron, and iron-magnesium silicates scattered at varying densities between the stars in our galaxy and other galaxies.

Radio Programs

Smith’s Cloud A big cloud falls toward the Milky Way August 14, 2016

Tau Ceti Visiting a dusty star system — after this. January 4, 2016

Fomalhaut Grinding up some “dusty” comets September 20, 2015

Polaris Flare A future stellar nursery August 19, 2015

Local Environment Bubbles and clouds around the solar system April 10, 2015

Interstellar Clouds Looking into cloudy evening skies April 9, 2015

Interstellar Medium Filling the space between stars April 8, 2015

Denebola The “dusty” tail of the lion March 30, 2015

Johannes Hartmann Filling the space between the stars January 10, 2015

Smash-up! A smash-up in a distant star system December 3, 2014

Moon and Betelgeuse The “messy” space around a giant star November 7, 2014

Local Bubble Clearing out interstellar space October 28, 2014

The Brick Building a future stellar nursery July 27, 2014

Lyman Spitzer Probing matter between the stars June 24, 2014

Leo T A tiny galaxy with bright ambitions May 24, 2014

Distant Borders Crossing a distant border May 18, 2014

Emptiness The emptiness between the stars April 20, 2014

Stepping Stone A long trip to nowhere April 3, 2014

California Nebula California in the stars January 24, 2014

Orion Nebula A busy stellar nursery January 22, 2014

Distant Cloud A remnant of the Big Bang November 2, 2013

Carbon Monoxide Tracing the birth of stars October 16, 2013

Moon and Antares Clouding up nearby space July 17, 2013

Dusty Vega Stirring up dust around a bright star June 13, 2013

Star Factory A massive factory for making stars May 1, 2013

The Bull’s Horns The Moon takes the bull by the horns March 17, 2013

Molecule Factory Whipping up some complex molecules November 12, 2012

Primordial Clouds Relics of the birth of the universe May 12, 2012

Horsehead Nebula Drifting along with an interstellar cloud December 19, 2011

Betelgeuse II Looking for the “edge” of a giant star December 1, 2011

Interstellar Skies Looking for clear interstellar skies November 14, 2011

Robert Trumpler Filling the space between the stars October 1, 2011

Moon and Antares Giving birth to a big family of stars July 10, 2011

Moon and Regulus Filtering out the starlight July 3, 2011

Stellar Shock Wave A star rams its way through the galaxy January 4, 2011

Featured Images

Infrared image of a bow shock in front of a fast star

Shocking Star January 7, 2016

The system V664 Cassiopeia is creating a planetary nebula

Bread Crumbs July 23, 2015

Infrared view of the interstellar medium

Filling the Void April 9, 2015

Hubble Space Telescope view of V838 Monocerotis in 2006

Brilliant Echo February 11, 2015

False-color image of M27, the Dumbbell Nebula

Last Gasp July 12, 2014

Infrared view of Serpens South star cluster and nebula

Unmasking Hidden Stars June 24, 2014

Combined visible, X-ray image of M51, the whirlpool galaxy

Colorful Whirlpool June 4, 2014

Close-up view of the California Nebula in infrared light.

California Nebula January 25, 2014

Hot Dust January 7, 2014

RS Puppis, a supergiant star seen by Hubble Space Telescope

Dusty Skies December 18, 2013

The Cat's Paw Nebula in submillimeter and near-infrared light

Star Maker September 27, 2013

Starbirth region on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy

Starbirth June 6, 2013

Combined visual and millimeter-wave view of Orion Nebula, M42

Cold Fire May 16, 2013

Infrared view of Betelgeuse

Messy Star April 12, 2013

Star forming region in Orion

Hiding Places January 23, 2013

Gemini Observatory view of outskirts of Orion Nebula

Knotheads January 10, 2013

Beams of light shine through the Egg Nebula

Stellar Headlights May 1, 2012

Artist's concept of stars and a gas cloud near the Milky Way's central black hol

Snack Time March 29, 2012

Space-based infrared view of the Large Magellanic Cloud

Busy Neighbor March 20, 2012

Infrared view of the spiral galaxy IC 342

Tangled Galaxy January 22, 2012

Infrared view of starbirth in the vast nebula complex Cygnus X

Busy Nursery January 13, 2012

Horsehead Nebula photographed through a McDonald Observatory telescope

3D Horsehead December 20, 2011

Stars and gas swirl around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way

Swirling Center September 27, 2011

Spiral galaxy NGC 3621 in the constellation Hydra

Galactic Sparkler February 2, 2011

Hubble view of Hanny's Voorwerp and the galaxy IC 2497

In the Spotlight January 11, 2011

Stellar Sculptors July 15, 2010

A hot, massive star 'exhales' a breath of oxygen in this recent image from WISE.

Breath of Life June 22, 2010

Starbirth Factories

Starbirth Factories May 24, 2010

Cold Fingers March 19, 2010