The above picture is a portion of a massive hydrogen gas cloud, floating through the universe. This concentration of superheated hydrogen and microscopic carbon dust particles are simultaneously the leftovers from past supernovas and the beginning of new stars. As the ionized hydrogen cools, its atoms combine to make hydrogen molecules, or molecular gas clouds. These clouds are the coolest collections of gas in the universe, and have a temperature of just a few degrees above absolute zero. Eventually the hydrogen and dust will compress enough to become a new star, which will heat up. The star's solar winds will push it from the cloud, where it will burn for millions or billions of years, blow up,the shockwave of which will collapse another part of the cloud, and start the cycle all over again.
In this picture, we can see several parts of the star lifecycle. The bright white spot near the bottom is still ionized hydrogen, possibly heated by a nearby star that came from the cloud. The dark black spot near the top right is a condensed pocket of hydrogen and dust, and will soon become a star. You can see that it is not simply a hole in the cloud because there are no visible stars in the darkness, as compared to the left side of the picture, where the actual edge of the cloud is.
Arnette, Bill. "Helix Nebula." Nine Planets. <http://astro.nineplanets.org/twn/n7293x.html>.
Frommert, Hartmut and Kronberg, Christine. "NGC 7293." Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. <http://www.seds.org/MESSIER/xtra/ngc/n7293.html>
|Right Ascension (J2000)||04:02:38.6|
|Exposure time per filter||300 sec|
|Date observed||October 13, 2011|