Image Credit & Copyright: R Jay GaBany.
We’re on to the final installment of the Cosmic Christmas Tree zoom and on this stop we’re going to detail the most famous structure in this region; the Cone nebula. The cone sits at the top of the Christmas tree (southern end) pointing downward and like the rest of the region it’s about 2700 to 3000 light years away in the constellation Monoceros. That’s just to the side of Orion and between the two dogs, Canis Major and Minor as we see them on the night sky.
The cone itself is a conical tower of dark absorption nebula which is comprised of cold molecular hydrogen. That mass of material blocks our view of the red colored emission nebula behind it just like in the Horse Head or Pillars of Creation nebulae. Regions like these are known to be stellar incubators and tend to have many forming stars within them. The only notable star nearby that’s not S Mon is the bright star HD 47887 which is just off of the top of the cone itself.
Again, like the rest of this region, viewing the stars in the cluster are fairly easy but seeing any nebulosity will be a challenge for sure. BIG aperture (I’d venture to say 10” or more), dark skies with your eyes dark adapted and averted vision will be your friends if you attempt to nab this structure with your own eyes.
NAME: Cone Nebula, NGC 2264, Sharpless2-273, Sh2-273, LBN911.
WHAT IS IT?: Pillar of interstellar gas and dust formed and excited by nearby open star cluster NGC 2264.
HOW BIG IS IT?: The cone pillar is about 7 light years in length or about 50 million round trips to the Moon.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Roughly 3000 light years away.
DISCOVERY: William Herschel on December 26, 1785.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE: N/A.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Monoceros (The Unicorn).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 06h 41m 06s / DEC +09° 53′.
Jay GaBany Astrophotography: http://www.cosmotography.com/
GaBany page for this image: http://www.cosmotography.com/images/small_Cone_Nebula_crop_ngc2264.html