Look at the photo of the "star factory" pillar in the Cone Nebula

Astrophysicists at the observatory have released a detailed photograph of the central "pillar" of the Cone Nebula.

The central pillar, which is part of NGC 2264's star forming region, resembles an unusual mythical creature.

A detailed photo of the star forming region in the Cone Nebula. Image: ESO

The Cone Nebula is located less than 2,500light years from Earth in the constellation Monoceros. This is close enough, astrophysicists explain, so this area is quite well studied. The star-forming region NGC 2264 or the open cluster Snowflakes, of which the nebula column is a part, was discovered back in the 18th century by astronomer William Herschel.

The length of the central dark pillar that is visiblein the image is about seven light years. Similar columnar shapes develop in giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust. One of the properties of such nebulae is active star formation.

A star-forming region in the Cone Nebula. Image: ESO

This type of pillar occurs when massiveNewly formed bright blue stars emit stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that sweep material away from their vicinity, the scientists explain. As this material is repelled, gas and dust further away from young stars is compressed into dense, dark and tall pillar-like shapes.

In the image taken with telescopesEuropean Southern Observatory in Chile, hydrogen gas is shown in blue and sulfur gas in red. These filters make bright blue young stars, indicating recent star formation, appear almost golden. They resemble sparklers against the background of a dark cone.

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On the cover: a wide view of the sky in the region of the Cone Nebula. Image: ESO, Digitized Sky Survey 2.