Image Credit: T. Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage) & H. Schweiker (WIYN, NOAO, AURA, NSF)

This black column of interstellar dust is IC 1396; a smoke monster dwelling in the Cepheus constellation (some 2,400 light-years from Earth). If you don’t see the monster outright, you might have an easier time spotting the outline of an elephant’s trunk (after all, it is commonly called the Elephant’s Trunk nebula).

Within the larger region the Elephant’s Trunk is situated in, there are many things worth focusing our attention on, like the impressively large star that continues to corrode the tip of the trunk, with its radiation eating away at the material bit by bit. This same star is also known to have jets that spew radiation from its poles.

Overall, IC 1396 —  along with its monster, which is technically a dark cometary globule — spans the width of approximately 10 full moons in our night sky(meaning it’s hundreds of light-years across). However, the region is rather dim compared to its size (especially given the fact that the region is currently churning out at least 100 stars).

Think this is impressive? See IC 1396 in 3D here.


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