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Nebulae are regions of the interstellar medium that contain ionized, neutral, or molecular hydrogen and cosmic dust. They can be made up of one or more types of these materials, depending on the circumstances in which they form. Many nebulae are star-forming regions, such as the famous “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula (M16). This area is made up mostly of ionized hydrogen gas and has created many young stars over its lifetime.
How Do Nebulae Form?
Nebulae can form due to several different factors. Some are created when stars explode in supernovas, while others form from stellar winds generated by massive stars that blow away surrounding material from their birthplaces. Yet another example is a protoplanetary nebula, which occurs when an old star begins to shed its outer layers in preparation for becoming a white dwarf star.
The Different Types of Nebula
There are several different kinds of nebulae found throughout the universe. Planetary nebulae have a round or oval shape with bright centers surrounded by glowing gas clouds. Dark nebulae appear as dark patches against brighter backgrounds due to their dust content blocking out light from distant stars behind them. Emission nebulae glow brightly due to being composed mostly of ionized hydrogen gas while reflection nebulae shine due to reflecting light from nearby stars off their dusty surfaces.