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.

2002 July 1
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The Fox Fur Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Anglo-Australian Observatory, Photograph by David Malin

Explanation: The nebula surrounding bright star S Mon is filled with dark dust and glowing gas. The strange shapes originate from fine interstellar dust reacting in complex ways with the energetic light and hot gas being expelled by the young stars. The region just below S Mon, the bright star in the above picture, is nicknamed the Fox Fur Nebula for its color and texture. The blue glow directly surrounding S Mon results from reflection, where neighboring dust reflects light from the bright star. The more diffuse red glow results from emission, where starlight ionizes hydrogen gas. Pink areas are lit by a combination of the two processes. S Mon is part of a young open cluster of stars named NGC 2264, located about 2500 light years away toward the constellation of Monoceros, just north of the Cone Nebula.

Tomorrow's picture: Cosmic Latte

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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