Located about 1,300 light-years away, the Iris Nebula is a reflection nebula – unlike most of the nebulas on this site, it’s not made of ionized gases emitting light of their own. It’s just starlight reflecting off clouds of dust. Reflection nebula are harder to image in light-polluted skies, since the narrowband filters we use for emission nebulas don’t work on them.
If you look around it, you can see the dust that *isn’t* illuminated. some of it appears kind of brown, and some of it is just dark, obscuring the stars of the Milky Way behind it.