The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula is a dense region of dust and gas found within the considerably larger star forming region IC 1396 in the Cepheus constellation. It is designated IC 1396A, the elongated globule of dust and gas was named the Elephant’s Trunk because it resembles an elephant’s head and trunk at visible wavelengths, appearing as a dark patch with a bright winding rim. It is located at a distance of 2,400 light years from Earth.
The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula is a region of star formation, with more than 250 young stars identified within and around it. Several of these stars are very young, less than 100,000 years old. There are two stars with an estimated age of a couple of million years, found in a small cavity in the head of the Elephant’s Trunk. The newly born protostars were formed as a result of the pressure created by the high compression caused by the radiation of the massive central star and the winds from the young stars within the nebula. The radiation and stellar winds of the central star are eroding some of the nebula’s dust and gas while also compressing some of the material into clumps from which new stars are formed.
This is a false color photograph comprised of images taken with Hydrogen Alpha, Oxygen III and Sulfur II filters and processed together in PixInsight. The stars have been reduced to emphasize the nebula structures.