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A cloud of dust, Hydrogen, Helium and other gases in interstellar space. This basically is a ‘Nebula’ and if we are talking about more than one, its ‘Nebulae’

What happens in these giant dust and gas clouds exactly?

What happens in nebulae is that stars are born. Nebulae are often referred to as ‘Stellar Nurseries’



These dust and gas clouds exist all over the universe and range in size. But for the most part these clouds are very large and can be millions of light years across.


Over billions of years when the materials in the clouds become denser, stars are created, and from the leftovers planets are also created, so these stellar nurseries are vital to how the universe works.


Astronomers have been observing nebulae for hundreds for years, and in the early days had mistaken whole galaxies very far away as nebula, only to discover in time that these clusters of stars were in fact galaxies and not nebula. The galaxy that is now ‘Andromeda’ used to be known as the Andromeda Nebula.


There are different types of nebulae also. There are 4 main types.   

  1. Diffuse Nebulae
  2. Planetary Nebulae 
  3. Supernova Remnants
  4. Dark Nebulae


Diffuse Nebulae

This nebulae is the general type of nebulae, with most nebulae being described as diffuse, as it doesn’t really have a beginning or an end.

The Eagle Nebula is a Diffuse Nebula


Planetary Nebulae

This type of nebulae doesn’t mean what it reads. It doesn’t have anything directly to do with planets. The nebulae is formed by the death of already formed stars.

The Butterfly Nebula is a planetary nebula


Supernova Remnants

This type of nebulae forms from the death of stars in a huge cosmic explosion of a star, called a ‘Supernova’ the nebula is a product of the left overs of the explosion, where strangely the cycle can start again, forming new stars.  

The Kepler’s Nova is a Supernova Remnant


Dark Nebulae

Dark nebulae,  the final and most fascinating nebulae of all. This type of nebulae takes form and shape from the surrounding light and nebulae, due to the dark nature of the clouds that are formed. Really just like a shadow.

The Horsehead Nebula is a Dark Nebula


So, all nebulae are very important in the creation of new stars and the expansion of the universe, you will agree that they are also amazing and very beautiful.


Kids Fun Facts Corner

# 1. The sun formed in a nebula.

# 2. At some stage in the far future the sun will become a nebula.

# 3. Nebulae form in different shapes and sizes over billions of years making up wonderful sights.

# 4. The Orion nebula is the nearest nebula to the Earth.


Q&A Corner

Q. What are nebulae made up of?

Q. What’s the ‘nickname’ for nebulae?

Q. How many main types of nebulae are there?

Q. What is the closest nebula to Earth?

Q. What is the name of the famous horsehead nebula?

Download questions about nebulae here: nebula (answers are on this page)

For further reading and more information on nebula visit

Key Vocabulary Universe. Galaxies. Clouds. Gas. Dust. Diffuse. Planetary. Supernova. Dark.


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