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The Monkey Head Nebula Is a Glittering Stellar Nursery

Peer closely at this photo and in the background, you’ll see galaxies the size of stars, and stars the size of galaxies [huge version here]. But in the foreground is the Monkey Head Nebula (NGC 2174), captured in the infrared by the Hubble space telescope. It’s a region of wispy, turbulent gas and dust clouds — chaos enveloping a twinkling stellar nursery. This beautiful patch of starry sky is in the constellation Orion, about 6,500 light-years away. The nebula gets its name from the shape it takes when viewed in wide-field. This image doesn’t really give you the full primate-in-the-sky experience, so I’ve used that as an excuse to paste in a set of photos below. Sit back and stare, click to enlarge.

This image shows the region of NGC 2174, taken in infrared and released for Hubble's 24th birthday, in its wider context. On the left is a ground based image taken by an amateur astrophotographer of the star-forming nebula in visible light, with an outline showing the area of the detailed Hubble image. On the right is a small detail of a star-forming column in the nebula, made by Hubble's WFC3 infrared camera. (NASA and ESA)
This image shows the region of NGC 2174, taken in infrared and released for Hubble’s 24th birthday, in its wider context. On the left is a ground based image taken by an amateur astrophotographer of the star-forming nebula in visible light, with an outline showing the area of the detailed Hubble image. On the right is a small detail of a star-forming column in the nebula, made by Hubble’s WFC3 infrared camera. (NASA and ESA)

One thought on “The Monkey Head Nebula Is a Glittering Stellar Nursery

  1. Would it be possible to watch long enough to see new stars actually lighting up, or do we have to be satisfied with seeing turbulent dust clouds and bright stars that fit our expectations of the process of star formation and young stars? Or are there other signs, such as a pattern of increasingly older stars farther behind a wavefront of turbulence?

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