Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 July 20
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The Elephant's Trunk in IC 1396
Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Explanation: Like a picture from a galactic Just So Story, the Elephant's Trunk Nebula winds through the emission nebula and young star cluster complex IC 1396, in the high and far off constellation of Cepheus. Bright swept-back ridges compose the suggestive form, outlining pockets of interstellar dust and gas. Such embedded dark, comet-shaped clouds contain the raw material for star formation. About 3,000 light-years distant, the relatively faint IC 1396 complex covers a much larger region on the sky than shown here, with an apparent width of more than 10 full moons. This close-up telescopic view is a delightful color mosaic of two digital images intended to follow the 'satiable curious cosmic trunk.

Tomorrow's picture: Vikings on Mars

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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