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.

2011 April 25
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Monsters of IC 1396
Credit & Copyright: Geert Barentsen & Jorick Vink (Armagh Observatory) & the IPHAS Collaboration

Explanation: Is there a monster in IC 1396? Known to some as the Elephant's Trunk Nebula, parts of the glowing gas and dust clouds of this star formation region may appear to take on foreboding forms, some nearly human. The entire nebula might even look like a face of a monster. The only real monster here, however, is a bright young star too far from Earth to be dangerous. Energetic light from this star is eating away the dust of the dark cometary globule at the top right of the image. Jets and winds of particles emitted from this star are also pushing away ambient gas and dust. Nearly 3,000 light-years distant, the IC 1396 complex is relatively faint and covers a region on the sky with an apparent width of more than 10 full moons. Recently, over 100 young stars have been discovered forming in the nebula.

Tomorrow's picture: pixels in space

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