Our 2-part mosaic shows (image orientation: north up
and east left) one of the most impressive dark nebula complexes in the
constellation of the Serpent Bearer - the so-called Pipe Nebula. It is named after the black dust
clouds that make it look like a smoking pipe. It consists of several separate
dark nebulae, partly assigned to the catalog numbers Barnard 59, 65, 66 and 67.
Numerous dark nebulae are named after the American astronomer Edward Emerson
Barnard, as he was the first to thoroughly document this class of objects.
Among the nebulae Barnard cataloged are also some that Beverly T. Lynds later
included in her catalog.
The dark nebula Barnard 77 and 78 form the
"Pipehead", Barnard 59, 65, 66 and 67 form the "Pipestalk". North of the Pipe
stem (at the top of the image) snakes Barnard 72 - the Snake Nebula, and just
below it to the right is the compact dark cloud Barnard 68.
Der Pfeifennebel covers an area of nearly
6.5°×4.5°. It is the closest dark nebula complex to us, at a
distance of about 500 light-years, and is located in front of the center of the
Milky Way. Thus, it obscures the view of the stars behind it. Astronomers of
the last centuries assumed that such areas are free of stars. Today we know
that here dense clouds of interstellar dust obscure the light of the stars
behind. So also the Pipe Nebula stands out as a dark silhouette in front of the