Madrid 11 (European press)
At its center is the seven-light-year-long pillar that forms this nebula, part of the star-forming region of NGC 2264 and discovered by astronomer William Herschel in the late 18th century. In the sky, this horn-shaped nebula is located in the constellation Monoceros (Rhinoceros), which is a surprisingly apt name.
Located less than 2,500 light-years away, the Cone Nebula is relatively close to Earth, making it a well-studied object. “But this view is more spectacular than anything obtained before, because it shows the dark, impenetrable and mysterious appearance of the nebula in a way reminiscent of a mythical or monstrous creature,” ESO said in a statement.
The Conical Nebula is a great example of the pillar-like structures that develop in giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust known to form new stars. This type of plume forms when newly formed bright blue stars emit stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that expels material from their vicinity.
As this material moves away, gas and dust is compressed away from young stars into long, dense, dark, pillar-like structures. This process helps create the dark Cone Nebula, which flies away from the bright stars of NGC 2264.
In this image, acquired with a FOcal Reducer and Spectrograph 2 (FOcal Reducer and Low Dispersion Spectrograph 2) instrument installed on ESO’s VLT in Chile, hydrogen gas is shown in blue and sulfur gas in red. Using these filters makes bright blue stars, which indicate recent star formation, look almost golden, and stand out against the dark cone like glows.
On October 5, 1962, five countries signed an agreement establishing the ESO. Now, six decades later and with the support of 16 member countries and a strategic partner, ESO brings together scientific and engineering personnel from around the world to develop and operate advanced ground-based observatories in Chile for ground-breaking astronomical discoveries.