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Space Science

2002-04-02

NASA

NASA

Resembling a nightmarish beast rearing its head from a crimson sea, this monstrous object is actually an irnocuous pillar of gas and dust. Called the Cone Nebula (NGC 2264), this giant pillar resides in a turbulent star-forming region. This picture, taken by the newly installed Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard Hubble Space Telescope (HST) during Space Shuttle STS-109 mission in March 2002, shows the upper 2.5 light-years of the nebula, a height that equals 23 million roundtrips to the Moon. The entire nebula is 7 light-years long. The Cone Nebula resides 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros. Radiation from hot, young stars (located beyond the top of the image) has slowly eroded the nebula over millions of years. Ultraviolet light heats the edges of the dark cloud, releasing gas into the relatively empty region of surrounding space. There, additional ultraviolet radiation causes the hydrogen gas to glow, which produces the red halo of light seen around the pillar. A similar process occurs on a much smaller scale to gas surrounding a single star, forming the bow-shaped arc seen near the upper left side of the Cone. This arc, seen previously with the HST, is 65 times larger than the diameter of our solar system. The blue-white light from surrounding stars is reflected by dust. Background stars can be seen peeking through the evaporating tendrils of gas, while the turbulent base is pockmarked with stars reddened by dust. Credit: NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (USCS/LO), M. Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team, and ESA.

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  • Title: Space Science
  • Date Created: 2002-04-02
  • Rights: MSFC
  • Album: rlobrie1

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