Scientists Say: Nebula

This is a massive cloud of dust and gas in space

This is an image of the Orion nebula, a huge cloud of gas and dust where new stars are born

NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

Nebula (noun, “NEHB-you-lah”, plural Nebulae, “NEHB-you-lee”)

This is a giant space cloud made of dust and gases such as hydrogen and helium. A nebula can form when a star dies in a massive explosion called a supernova. Other nebulae are star nurseries — places where stars are born. Over time, gravity pulls gases and dust together. When the clumps of matter get big enough, they collapse into big hot mass — a baby star.

In a sentence

The swirling clouds of dust inside nebulae can form sugars needed for life, including ribose, which is used in cell machinery.

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Bethany is the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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