the elephant trunk
the elephant trunk Back to Index Page Previous Image Next Image
Though nearly impossible to observe visually, the socalled Elephant's Trunk Nebula located within the northern constellation of Cepheus has a rather striking appearance on deep photographic images. The curling dark globule on the left side of this image is actually a dense cloud of molecular dust and gas designated as LDN 1105. It would be just like any other small dark cloud of material in space if it were not located within the blast radius of a superluminous cluster of young hot stars positioned just off of the lefthand side of this image. This open star cluster, Trumpler 37, contains nearly 50 stars of which several are brilliant class O type stars having very high surface temperatures and releasing copious amounts of ultraviolet radiation. The radiation from this gathering of stars is literally plowing into the face of the dense globule LDN 1105, thereby illuminating its surface through ionization and eroding the lefthand side of the cloud through a process known as photoevaporation. The immense pressure placed upon the cloud of material has caused several dense cores to coalesce within the curly globule. One such core, near the center of the globule, has literally erupted creating a circular cavity containing the fetal star LkHa 349 and a tiny red nebula known only as Gyulbudaghian-Magakian 1-31! Another notable feature is the presence of scattered stalight in the form of a blue reflection nebula designated as Van den Bergh 142. The intermingling of the ruddy emission nebulosity, the blue reflection nebula, and huge amounts of dust gives the inner walls of the globule a rather bizarre greenish-brown glow in certain areas...a hue not seen very often in deepsky objects. On the righthand side of the above image, one finds several other columns and dusty features presently being sculpted by the intense radiation from the young stars of Trumpler 37. Meanwhile the entire area is immersed within a huge region of tenuous glowing gas known as IC 1396, hence the presence of nebulosity throughout the entire field. Image taken with homemade 8-inch f/5.4 astrograph and SBIG STL-11000M. (R+L)RGB image composed of 200 minutes of L, 160 minutes of red, and 60 minutes each of green and blue. Be sure to click on the above image for the high resolution version.