Christmas Tree Cluster NGC 2264 and Cone Nebula
It shows the Cone Nebula at the left; the Christmas Tree Cluster in the central third (its base is the very bright blue star, and its tip is near the Cone Nebula); and the reddish Fox Fur Nebula just below and right of centre, looking a little like a lion's mane.
Detailed text adapted from Hubble Site:
Resembling a nightmarish beast rearing its head from a crimson sea, this monstrous object is actually an innocuous pillar of gas and dust. Called the Cone Nebula (NGC 2264) — so named because, in ground-based images, it has a conical shape — this giant pillar resides in a turbulent star-forming region.
Towards the left of the image you can see the 7 light-years long finger of the Cone Nebula, a height that equals 75 million roundtrips to the Moon. The Cone Nebula resides 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros.
Radiation from hot, young stars located at centre of the image has slowly eroded the nebula over millions of years.
Ultraviolet light heats the edges of the dark cloud, releasing gas into the relatively empty region of surrounding space. There, additional ultraviolet radiation causes the hydrogen gas to glow, which produces the red halo of light seen around the pillar. A similar process occurs on a much smaller scale to gas surrounding a single star, forming the bow-shaped arc seen near the upper left side of the Cone. This arc, seen previously with the Hubble telescope, is 65 times larger than the diameter of our solar system. The blue-white light from surrounding stars is reflected by dust. Background stars can be seen peeking through the evaporating tendrils of gas, while the turbulent base is pockmarked with stars reddened by dust.
Over time, only the densest regions of the Cone will be left. Inside these regions, stars and planets may form.
The Cone Nebula is a cousin of the M16 pillars, which the Hubble telescope imaged in 1995. Monstrous pillars of cold gas, like the Cone and M16, are common in large regions of star birth.
Astronomers believe that these pillars are incubators for developing stars.
The bright blue white star S Monocerotis near the centre is actually a quadruple star system consisting of four brilliant blue-white stars (classes O7, B7, B8 and A6) and it is partly responsible for causing the nebula to glow.
Orion Optics UK AG16 Astrograph: SBIG 11000 M: Paramount ME2 Mount
R,G,B: 8x3m each; Halpha: 7x10mins
2hrs 22 min total, all binned 1x1
Processed with CCDStack, Photoshop, Pixinsight
Data capture: January 2016