Reveal image of the “monstrous” Cone Nebula

This giant pillar of gas and dust is seven light-years across and only 2,500 light-years from Earth. The photograph was presented on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the European Southern Observatory.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO, for its acronym in English), has revealed this Friday (11.11.2022) one of the most detailed images of the cone Nebula, a pillar-shaped structure located in the constellation of Monoceros (the unicorn), within which new stars arise.

The image, presented on the occasion of ESO’s 60th anniversary, was captured with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) earlier this year in Chile and created as part of the informative initiative Joyas cósmicas.

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It looks like a “monstrous” creature

The Cone Nebula, the great pillar that can be seen in the center, has a dimension of seven light years and was discovered by the astronomer William Herschel at the end of the 17th century.

This vision is more spectacular than any obtained before, as it shows the dark, impenetrable and murky appearance of the nebula in a way that reminds us of a mythological or monstrous creature,” says the ESO report.

A “star factory”

The space structure, also known as NGC 2264, is located just 2,500 light-years from Earth, which has allowed scientists to better study it. This nebula developed into a giant cloud of cold molecular gas and dust, and is what ESO calls a “star factory”

“This type of pillar appears when newly formed massive bright blue stars emit stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that expels material from its vicinity”explained the Observatory based in Garching (Germany) in a statement.

Exoplanets, black holes and other surprises of the Universe

As this material moves away, the gas and dust that are further away from the young stars are compressed into tall, dense, dark structures like the Cone Nebula.

The ESO telescopes, which were used exceptionally for publicity purposes, are regularly used for scientific observations and have so far made it possible to capture the first image of an exoplanet, study the black hole in the center of our galaxy and find evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.