A nebula is an interstellar cloud
Interstellar cloud
Interstellar cloud is the generic name given to an accumulation of gas, plasma and dust in our and other galaxies. Put differently, an interstellar cloud is a denser-than-average region of the interstellar medium. Depending on the density, size and temperature of a given cloud, the hydrogen in it...

 of dust
Cosmic dust
Cosmic dust is a type of dust composed of particles in space which are a few molecules to 0.1 µm in size. Cosmic dust can be further distinguished by its astronomical location; for example: intergalactic dust, interstellar dust, interplanetary dust and circumplanetary dust .In our own Solar...

, hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 gas, helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 gas and other ionized gases. Originally, nebula was a general name for any extended astronomical
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

Astronomical object
Astronomical objects or celestial objects are naturally occurring physical entities, associations or structures that current science has demonstrated to exist in the observable universe. The term astronomical object is sometimes used interchangeably with astronomical body...

, including galaxies
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

 beyond the Milky Way
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

 (some examples of the older usage survive; for example, the Andromeda Galaxy
Andromeda Galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Andromeda. It is also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, and is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts. Andromeda is the nearest spiral galaxy to the...

 was referred to as the Andromeda
Andromeda (mythology)
Andromeda is a princess from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, the Boast of Cassiopeia, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband. Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδη...

before galaxies were discovered by Edwin Hubble
Edwin Hubble
Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer who profoundly changed the understanding of the universe by confirming the existence of galaxies other than the Milky Way - our own galaxy...

). Nebulae often form star-forming regions, such as in the Eagle Nebula
Eagle Nebula
The Eagle Nebula is a young open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens, discovered by Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux in 1745-46. Its name derives from its shape which is resemblant of an eagle...

. This nebula is depicted in one of NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's most famous images, the "Pillars of Creation
Pillars of Creation
Pillars of Creation refers to a photograph taken by the Hubble Telescope of elephant trunks of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 7,000 light years from Earth. It was taken April 1, 1995 and was named one of the top ten photographs from the Hubble by