As you look at the Milky Way on a dark night, you see patches of light and shade across it. Regions of gas and dust along our line of sight are what create the recognisable form of our galaxy on the sky. In fact, the night sky is full of thousands of silhouettes of all many shapes and sizes. In 1919 an astronomer called Edward Barnard created a catalogue of more than 300 of these dark nebula. This is an image of several of these Barnard objects, including #7 on that list, which is the large shape in the middle of this picture..
Barnard 7, and the surrounding dark nebulae, are found in Taurus. They make up part of what is known as the Taurus Molecular Cloud Complex. It is a web of dense, dusty regions obscuring the background stars. Within it we know there are young prestellar objects waiting to ignite fusion, and become stars. Look carefully and you can see one such protostar (RY Tauri) already blasting out of its dusty cocoon just above the middle of this image.
These sites of early star formation were the subject of my own PhD ten years ago, and continue to be peered into by powerful new infrared and microwave telescopes both in space and around the world.
Technical image details on Astrobin.
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