A LOOK AT THE HUNTER’S MONKEY!
Image Credit & Copyright: J.P. Metsavainio of http://astroanarchy.zenfolio.com/. CLICK image for larger view and look below for information and links.
Discovered in 1877 by French astronomer Jean Marie Stephan, NGC 2174 is a great winter object to view and image. Affectionately known as “The Monkey Head Nebula” this object really does resemble a monkeys head from an apparent side view as it’s facing the left side and slightly up as we see it in the frame. Kinda reminds me of Chewbacca a bit actually. If you’re looking for it, you will find it on the border of constellation’s of Orion & Gemini when they are in view from late-Fall through early-Spring in the Northern hemisphere which would be right now for the Southern hemisphere.
NGC 2174 is a vast star forming region of gas and dust that’s being ionized by the open star cluster cataloged as NGC 2175 at its center. The stellar winds (radiation) as in most star forming regions where stars are actively being born, is blasting away at the gas and dust that created them. That constant process renders the nebula aglow and has opened a massive cavity in the nebula as the stars clear their view for a look at the cosmos. This cavity will continue to grow and expand until the energy from the stars has dispersed it back out into the universe to someday join another molecular cloud and create another family of stars at some other location, in some other time.
I’d like to leave you with a little extra detail; the entire Monkey Head Nebula is cataloged as NGC 2174 but NGC 2174 is actually an open star cluster near the monkey’s mouth. NGC 2175 open star cluster is located near the monkey’s eye and at the base of the skull or at the back of the neck is another open star cluster known as NGC 2175S. Because of the location and prominence of open star cluster NGC 2175 you will often see this entire object referred to as NGC 2175 instead of 2174. That’s just the way it goes in astronomy; lots of different designations, catalogs and objects within objects all carrying different names. Try not to confuse yourself with that at first. Learn the objects slowly and after you get a few down in detail you will begin to get a feel for how these objects are truly constructed, cataloged etc.
You know what; I think we will turn this into one of my favorite things to do with these images. See that knot that makes up the monkey’s eye, I think that with the next post we will zoom in there and have a look at that region in detail.
NAME: NGC 2174 which is an open star cluster near the “mouth” but is also this objects designation, Monkey Head Nebula, NGC 2175 for the open star cluster near the “eye” and NGC 2175S for the open star cluster at the base of the skull.
WHAT IS IT?: Star forming region & open star cluster NGC 2175.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Roughly 6400 light years or about 2000 parsecs.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 40’ arcminutes on the night sky.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE?: Star cluster NGC 2175 is a magnitude 6.8 or +6.8.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Orion “The Hunter” near the border of Gemini.
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 06h 09m 23.7s / DEC +20° 27′ 34″.
J.P. Metsavainio’s page for this image: http://astroanarchy.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-new-image-ngc-2174-monkey-head-nebula.html
SIMBAD data page on open star cluster NGC 2175: http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad/sim-id?Ident=NGC+2175&NbIdent=1&Radius=2&Radius.unit=arcmin&submit=submit+id