"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
In the velvet darkness
Astronomers have found dark, dense and dusty cosmic clumps that throw the deepest shadows ever recorded. The clumps lie within a huge cosmic cloud of gas and dust (center). NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has made infrared observations of these regions in the cloud that provide a way to understand how the brightest stars form. The large cloud sits in the center of the galactic plane. A new study takes advantage of the shadows cast by the dark clumps to measure the cloud’s overall structure and mass. The dense, clumpy pockets of star-forming material within the cloud consist of such thick dust that they scatter and block not only visible light, but almost all background infrared light as well. The study’s results suggest that the dusty cloud will likely evolve into one of the most massive young clusters of stars in our galaxy.