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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