This cosmic dust cloud blocks our view of the galaxy

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The Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years in diameter, but that doesn't mean we're necessarily able to see everything our galaxy has to offer. The trouble comes from this thick nearby dust cloud, which blocks the stars behind it.

This particular dust cloud is located near the constellation Corona Australis, also known as the Southern Crown. It's located only 500 light-years away, and the thickest part of the cloud - which is about eight light-years across - blocks out the light from the stars located behind it relative to us. That's the trouble with trying to understand what our galaxy looks like. Although we obviously gain from being close to all the stars in the Milky Way, we're still forever stuck inside it, which skews our view.

But as obstructed views go, I'll admit this is one of the more beautiful ones. A NASA astronomer explains a little more of what's on display in this image:

At its tip (upper right) is a group of lovely reflection nebulae cataloged as NGC 6726, 6727, 6729, and IC 4812. A characteristic blue color is produced as light from hot stars is reflected by the cosmic dust. The smaller yellowish nebula (NGC 6729) surrounds young variable star R Coronae Australis. Magnificent globular star cluster NGC 6723 is toward the upper right corner of the view. While NGC 6723 appears to be part of the group, it actually lies nearly 30,000 light-years away, far beyond the Corona Australis dust clouds.


Via NASA. Image by Leonardo Julio.