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Space is a Dusty Place!

Space is a Dusty Place!

Space is a Dusty Place!

Space is a Dusty Place!

Butterfly Nebula

When you look at pictures of space, do you know what you’re actually seeing? A lot of the time the answer is dust!

Space is a Dusty Place!

HII region seen by Chandra X-ray Observatory

Clouds of dust drift through our galaxy. Telescopes can take pictures of these clouds when stars light them up. Who knew dust could be so beautiful? But it’s more than just pretty – we can learn a lot from it, too!

Space is a Dusty Place!

Stars like our Sun are born in dust clouds. Over time, leftover dust clumps together to help form planets. That makes it a little less dusty.

Space is a Dusty Place!

At certain times of the year, a band of sun-reflecting dust from the inner Solar System appears prominently just after sunset – or just before sunrise – and is called zodiacal light.

Credit: Ruslan Merzlyakov/astrorms

But later, objects like comets and asteroids can create new dust by breaking up into tiny rocks. In our solar system, these rocky grains are called zodiacal dust. That’s because it’s mostly visible near the constellations of the zodiac. We can see the hazy glow it creates just after sunset or shortly before dawn sometimes, like in the picture above.

Space is a Dusty Place!

Around other stars, it’s called exozodiacal dust. Try saying that five times fast! It makes it hazy there too, so it can be hard to see distant planets.

Space is a Dusty Place!

Our Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will be really good at seeing how much of this dust is swirling around nearby stars. That will help future telescopes know the best places to look to find planets like Earth!

Roman will also see more distant objects. It will peer inside dust clouds where new stars are bursting into life. That will help our James Webb Space Telescope know where to look to find baby planets. Webb can zoom in for a more detailed look at these young worlds by seeing how they filter their host star’s light.

Space is a Dusty Place!

Roman will see huge patches of the sky – much bigger than our Hubble and Webb telescopes can see. These missions will team up to explore all kinds of cosmic mysteries!

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