Credit: Digitized Sky Survey, ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator

Meet IC 1396. It is located about 3,000 light-years from earth in the constellation Cepheus. IC 1396 is also known as the Elephant’s Trunk nebula because of its winding appearance which resembles the trunk of the large mammal. The ‘trunk’ of the nebula isn’t visible in this particular picture and is located below frame center.

The fantastic appearance of this nebula is made possible by IC 1396A, a massive star responsible for ionizing the dust and gas that make up the nebula.

This star-forming region is also home to some extremely young stars. Using inferred images, scientists discovered these stars which they believe are less than 100,000 years old (when compared to objects that live for billions of years, 100,000 years is practically right out of the womb).

 A larger and high resolution version of this image can be found here.

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