Skip to main content

See the dark pillar of the Cone Nebula captured by the Very Large Telescope

A stunning image of a distant nebula has been taken using the Very Large Telescope. The Cone Nebula, located 2,700 light-years away in the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn), is huge in size at 7 light-years long. The Cone Nebula is next to the beautiful Christmas Tree cluster, also known as NGC 2264.

The image was shared by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in celebration of its formation 60 years ago. ESO operates ground-based telescopes in Chile including the Very Large Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and the New Technology Telescope.

The Cone Nebula.
The Cone Nebula is part of a star-forming region of space, NGC 2264, about 2500 light-years away. Its pillar-like appearance is a perfect example of the shapes that can develop in giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust, known for creating new stars. This dramatic new view of the nebula was captured with the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), and released on the occasion of ESO’s 60th anniversary. ESO

The Very Large Telescope was able to capture this image using its FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument which operates in the visible light wavelength. Using different filters, different elements can be color-coded so that in this image hydrogen is seen in blue and sulfur in red. The bright yellow-looking stars in the image would normally appear blue as they are very young and bright, being born in the swirl of dust and gas of the nebula.

“The Cone Nebula is a perfect example of the pillar-like shapes that develop in the giant clouds of cold molecular gas and dust, known for creating new stars,” ESO writes. “This type of pillar arises when massive, newly formed bright blue stars give off stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation that blow away the material from their vicinity. As this material is pushed away, the gas and dust further away from the young stars gets compressed into dense, dark and tall pillar-like shapes. This process helps create the dark Cone Nebula, pointing away from the brilliant stars in NGC 2264.”

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Dark matter hunting telescope Euclid has a problem with its guidance system
Graphic rendering of the Euclipd space telescope.

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Euclid space telescope, which launched in July this year to investigate the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, has run into issues during its commissioning phase. Although the early calibration images looked good, since then the telescope has had problems with the instrument that helps it position itself by locking onto particular stars, called the Fine Guidance Sensor.

The Fine Guidance Sensor has been intermittently failing to lock onto stars, which is making it difficult to orient the telescope in the right direction. When working correctly, data from the Fine Guidance Sensor goes to the spacecraft's attitude and orbit control system which keeps it in the right orientation. However as this has not been working as intended, the commissioning phase for the telescope has been extended so teams can investigate the issue.

Read more
James Webb telescope captures stunning view of a famous supernova remnant
Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) captured this detailed image of SN 1987A (Supernova 1987A). At the center, material ejected from the supernova forms a keyhole shape. Just to its left and right are faint crescents newly discovered by Webb. Beyond them an equatorial ring, formed from material ejected tens of thousands of years before the supernova explosion, contains bright hot spots. Exterior to that is diffuse emission and two faint outer rings. In this image blue represents light at 1.5 microns (F150W), cyan 1.64 and 2.0 microns (F164N, F200W), yellow 3.23 microns (F323N), orange 4.05 microns (F405N), and red 4.44 microns (F444W).

One of the satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, the Large Magellanic Cloud, is famous as the host of the nearest supernova to Earth in recent history. Supernova SN 1987A occurred when a massive star ran out of fuel and collapsed at the end of its life, setting off an enormous explosion that threw out a shock wave so powerful it reshaped the dust and gas around it for millions of miles in every direction.

That supernova left behind a remnant, a ring-shaped structure created as the shock wave traveled outward over time. This glowing ring has been frequently observed since the supernova was first seen in 1987. Now, the James Webb Space Telescope has provided one of the most detailed views yet of this stunning structure that was created from a destructive explosion.

Read more
Webb telescope captures Ring Nebula in gorgeous detail
The Ring Nebula captured by Webb’s IRCam (Near-Infrared Camera).

The James Webb Space Telescope has just served up a couple more sublime images, this time showing the Ring Nebula in astonishing detail.

First spotted in the 18th Century and located around 2,500 light-years from Earth, the Ring Nebula’s colorful main ring is made up of gas thrown off by a dying star at the center of the nebula.

Read more