In sufficiently dark skies, you can spot a handful of stars packed closely together. This is an open star cluster called the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. Photographer and CIERA graduate student Imran Sultan’s image shows the Pleiades in the center and the nearby reflection nebulosity (there are evidently many more stars than the few brightest ones visible with the naked eye). The image shows a very wide field around the star cluster. With a long enough total imaging time from dark skies, Sultan was able to observe dust clouds extending out to a great distance around the Pleiades. Sultan captured the image in December 2022 from the southwestern New Mexico desert, home to some of the darkest skies in the United States of America. Imaging for hours from this location was essential to reveal the extremely faint dust surrounding the Seven Sisters. Sultan, who practices astrophotography in his free time, is a graduate student in CIERA Professor Claude-Andre Faucher-Giguere’s group. In 2023, Sultan’s photo of the Western Veil Nebula and the Flower Moon won first place and runner-up respectively in the astronomy category of the Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition.

Credit: Imran Sultan/Northwestern/CIERA

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