A New View of the Cone Nebula From the Very Large Telescope

The Cone Nebula is part of a star-forming region of space, NGC 2264, about 2500 light-years away. This image was released on the occasion of ESO’s 60th anniversary. Credit: ESO

Here’s a dramatic and spectacular new view of the Cone Nebula, as seen by the Very Large Telescope (VLT). This nebula is part of a distant star-forming region called NGC 2264, which about 2,500 light-years away. Its pillar-like appearance is a perfect example of the shapes that can develop in giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust, known for creating new stars.

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Astrophoto: Pulp Fiction by César Cantú

The Cone and Christmas Tree Nebula. Credit: {link url="http://www.astrophoto.com.mx/index.php?"}César Cantú{/link}. Click for higher resolution version.


Astrophotographer César Cantú from the Chilidog Observatory in Monterrey, Mexico calls this image “Pulp Fiction” for its violent areas of hot, deadly gases being expelled by the young stars, solar windstorms, huge accumulations of cosmic dust. But the two features show here are actually are named after things much more peaceful in nature: The Cone Nebula and the Christmas Tree Cluster. This open cluster of stars was discovered by William Herschel in 1785 and is cataloged as NGC 2264 and lies at a distance of 2,600 light years from our solar system.

“This is an H II region located in the constellation Monoceros,” César says, “a region with much stardust. The picture shows also the Hubble Variable Nebula, like a little flash at the top right. This is a vast field reached with the telescope and focal reducer FSQ106, which gives a focal length of 385mm with great resolution. The camera used was the FLI8300, with 4:30 hours of exposure.”

Click the image for access to a higher resolution version on César’s website.

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