Bringing The Power Source of the Stars Down to Earth

Reflection Nebulae

The Pleiades

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The Pleiades

Photo Credit: David Malin at the Anglo-Australian Observatory; used with permission - please do not redistribute without permission!

Reflection nebulae are not glowing plasmas but are visible because of light from nearby bright stars scattering off of dust particles. The nearby star or stars are not hot enough to cause ionization in the gas of the nebula but are bright enough to give sufficient scattering to make the dust visible. Since wavelengths in the blue are scattered more readily than red, reflection nebula tend to have a blue shading. (This is the same scattering process that gives us blue skies and red sunsets.) Among the nicest of the reflection nebulae are those surrounding the stars of the Pleiades. A blue reflection nebula can also be seen in the same area of the sky as the Trifid Nebula.

Page contributed by G. Samuel Lightner.

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