A Unicorn, A Fox, and a Christmas Tree Find Common Ground in a Star Nursery

Monoceros, the Constellation of the Unicorn

Rolf Geissinger

Today in pretty space pics: the constellation Monoceros, also known as the unicorn. A solid 2,700 light-years from Earth, this cluster of gas and dust is more formally cataloged as NGC 2264, a star-forming region that shines with both emission nebulae excited by the high energy given off by newborn stars (red) and reflection nebulae, which is light simply bouncing off interstellar dust near young, hot stars (blue).

There are allegedly an array of players involved in the region: the so-called Fox Fur nebula to the upper left, the Cone Nebula (we're not exactly sure), and the Christmas Tree star cluster, which also doesn't really jump out at us. But it is an absolutely stunning view of a region 40 light years across--or, in our sky, roughly 1.5 full moons across. For a higher-res view and a more thorough description of the features mentioned above, click on over to NASA's APOD page.