A stunning image of a distant nebula has been taken using the Very Large Telescope. The cone nebula, located 2,700 light-years away in the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn), is huge in size at 7 light-years across. The Cone Nebula is next to the beautiful cluster of christmas treesalso known as NGC 2264.
The image was shared by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in celebration of its formation 60 years ago. ESO operates ground-based telescopes in Chile, including the Very Large Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array and the New Technology Telescope.
The Very Large Telescope was able to capture this image using its FOcal Reducer and Low Dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) operating in the wavelength of visible light. Using different filters, different elements can be color coded so that in this image hydrogen appears blue and sulfur appears red. Bright yellow-looking stars in the image would normally appear blue, as they are very young and bright, being born in the nebula’s swirling dust and gas.
“The Cone Nebula is a perfect example of the pillar-like shapes that develop in the giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust known to create new stars,” write IT’S. “This type of pillar arises when newly formed massive bright blue stars emit stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that blow material out of their neighborhood. As this material moves away, the gas and dust further away from the young stars are compressed into the shapes of tall, dark, dense pillars. This process helps create the dark Cone Nebula, pointing away from the bright stars in NGC 2264.”