M81 and M82 bathed in Integrated Flux Nebula
Most images of M81 and M82 will show the two galaxies, the surrounding stars and a few smaller galaxies here and there.
But a deeper exposure and a much more careful processing will reveal that these galaxies, far from being visualized against a nearly dark, empty background, they are surrounded by huge clouds of dust.
The truth is that the galaxies are not surrounded by this dust - the dust is much closer to us than the galaxies - it just happens to look that way. Kind of like looking at the moon on a partially cloudy night.
This dust, unlike classic reflection nebulas - that are usually illuminated by neighboring stars - is actually illuminated by the glow of our own Milky Way galaxy. And yes, it is very very faint. Steve Mandel named this nebulosity Integrated Flux Nebula, or IFN.
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