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How opaque are dark nebula?

28 Mar 2016, 12:58 UTC
How opaque are dark nebula?
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Recently I was asked* 'how opaque is a dark nebula?' I went with it as a topic since, as a dark nebula is just a nebula with no stars to illuminate it, it gives me a perfect excuse to look at lots of stunning space images. However.... we get those images from huge telescopes,  which are designed to collect as much light and detail as possible. That means they aren't a very good indicator of what a human eye would see. So I went and did some reading.And it turns out that 'nebula' are a bit more complicated than I realised**....She's complicated, true. But I bet there are guys who'd be willing to try to understand her. Ahem. Sorry, my inner Marvel movies geek couldn't resist.Before we start, we need a reference point: The air you're breathing (I assume you breathe air on planet Earth, no offence if you've logged on from... elsewhere) has roughly 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules per cubic centimetre.So let's start at the beginning: Go out on a clear night, somewhere far from any city lights. You'll be able to see countless objects that are immense distances away, including nebula - they don't look like they do in the pictures, but ...

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