Image Credit & Copyright: R. Jay GaBany.
It’s been a real busy week but now let’s continue on with our Christmas Tree cluster zoom and the next stop were going to make in this region is called the Fox Fur nebula and it’s cataloged as Sharpless2-273 and it’s a region of cosmic gas and dust that’s being excited and deformed by nearby star cluster NGC 2264 which you can see in this image just to the right of the fox.
That extremely bright star in the cluster (right of the fox) is S Monocerotis or S Mon for short. It’s a massive magnitude 4.5 star that is 8,500 times more luminous than the Sun and it, along with its cluster buddies shower the region with ultraviolet radiation as their ultimate goal is to clear the area and create an unabated view of the universe around them. That stellar wind excites the area, ionizes the hydrogen gas atoms and renders it aglow in the incredible pink-purple colors while the blue is likely from the starlight itself refracting off the gas and dust particles throughout the area.
Like the Christmas Tree cluster itself, you don’t have to use up much of your imagination trying to understand where this region gained its name. The flowing look that this cloud demonstrates really does resemble a fox or fox stole. You can easily see the head, ears and pointy nose as well as even a left leg. Again, this entire region is spectacular when imaged. Through the eyepiece, not so much as the stars are easily observable but it takes BIG aperture to find any nebulous detail with your own eyes.
NAME: Fox Fur nebula, Sh2-273.
WHAT IS IT?: Region of interstellar gas and dust formed and excited by nearby open star cluster NGC 2264.
HOW BIG IS IT?: The Christmas tree region is about 40 light years in diameter.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Roughly 3000 light years away.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE: N/A.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Monoceros (The Unicorn).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): Star S-Mon RA 06h 40m 58.66s / DEC +09° 53′ 44.715″.
- Jay GaBany Astrophotography: http://www.cosmotography.com/
- Jay GaBany page for this image: http://www.cosmotography.com/images/small_Fox_Fur_Nebula_crop_ngc2264.html