|A Fox Fur, a Unicorn, and a Christmas Tree |
What do the following things have in common: a cone, the fur of a fox, and a Christmas tree?
Answer: they all occur in the constellation of the unicorn
Pictured above as a star forming region
cataloged as NGC 2264, the complex jumble of
cosmic gas and dust is about 2,700 light-years distant and
mixes reddish emission nebulae
excited by energetic light from
newborn stars with dark
interstellar dust clouds.
Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close
to the hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue
The above image spans about 3/4 degree or nearly 1.5 full moons,
covering 40 light-years at the distance of NGC 2264.
Its cast of cosmic characters includes
the Fox Fur Nebula, whose
convoluted pelt lies at the upper left, bright
S Mon immersed in the blue-tinted haze
just below the Fox Fur, and the
Cone Nebula near the tree's top.
Of course, the stars of NGC 2264 are also known as the
The triangular tree shape traced by the stars appears sideways here,
with its apex at the Cone Nebula and its broader base
centered near S Mon.