What Is a Stellar Nebula?

stellar-nebula hubblesite/CC-BY 3.0

A stellar nebula is a cloud of superheated gases and other elements formed by the explosive death of a massive star. Stellar nebulae emit brilliant waves of infrared light generated by dust particles within the cloud.

The cosmic objects known as nebulae, from the Latin for cloud, serve as the birthplace of stars. Stellar formation begins in a nebula when particles within the cloud begin to bond with each other due to their gravitational pull, the increased mass of these particles in turn gaining more gravitational pull. As they attract more of the surrounding dust and gas, the pressures at the core of the construct reach such an extreme that nuclear fusion results, sparking the earliest stages of star development.