Hot young stars blaze at the center of a vast cloud of interstellar hydrogen gas in this image, acquired by the European Southern Observatory’s MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in the Atacama desert, Chile.
The intense radiation from the stars ionizes the hydrogen in the clouds, causing it to glow in red wavelengths of visible light. This particular nebula, named Gum 41, is located 7,300 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus and is extremely faint; the image above was made with a special filter designed to enhance the red glow of hydrogen.
In fact, if you were to travel through Gum 41 you wouldn’t see any glow at all, the gas and light is that diffuse.
Gum 41 didn’t earn its name because it looks like a wad of bubble gum (which, now that I mention it, it kinda does). This nebula — and many others like it — was discovered by Australian astronomer Colin Gum in 1951, and was included in a now-famous catalog of HII emission nebulae published four years later. Tragically, the talented and well-liked Gum was killed in a skiing accident while vacationing in Switzerland in 1960, at the young age of 36. Today 85 nebulae bear his name — as well as a crater on the Moon.