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.
This picture, taken by the newly installed Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the upper 2.5 light-years of the nebula, a height that equals 23 million roundtrips to the Moon. The entire nebula is 7 light-years long. The Cone Nebula resides 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros.
ACS made this observation on April 2, 2002.
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