Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope’s brilliant work, NASA has released a stunning image of the Monkey Head Nebula. The flashy region is filled with young stars entrenched within luminous wisps of cosmic gas and dust.
The Monkey Head Nebula, officially called NGC 2174, is positioned approximately 6,400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion. Having first glimpsed this part of the sky back in 2001, Hubble has now revisited the region in honor of its 24th year of operation.
Hubble loves looking at nebulae. In fact, some of the space telescope’s most famous photos have been images of nebulae, such as this photo of the Tarantula Nebula in honor of Hubble’s 22nd year of operation.
The Monkey Head Nebula gets its unique name from its notably familiar shape when observed in wide-field images.
NGC 2174 is a violent stellar nursery, full of the ingredients needed for star formation. However, most of the ingredients are wasted as the cloud of gas and dust breaks up; a process that is sped up by the presence of hot young stars which set off high velocity winds that help to blow the gas outwards.
Astronomers call the young white and pinks stars, littered among the glowing clouds, the “icing on this cosmic birthday cake.”
This portion of the NGC 2174 was photographed in the infrared utilizing Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.
According to HubbleSite, Hubble is one of the space agency’s most successful and long-lasting science missions, sending hundreds of thousands of photos back to Earth and revealing new insight into many of astronomy’s greatest mysteries.