Triggering the Birth of Stars : 2010

Photograph by

Nicholas Wright

About this image

This image shows the ‘Elephant Trunk Nebula’, a column of dark gas and dust about 2400 light years away from Earth in the constellation Cepheus. A massive star out of frame to the left is illuminating the nebula with ultraviolet light, causing gas to ‘boil’ from the surface. Fluctuations in density within the nebula cause gas and dust to gather, eventually enough material will clump together that it collapses under its own gravity and ignites as a new star. This image was composed from three exposures combined in colour channels to make an RGB image: a broad red filter (reproduced in green), a broad infrared filter (reproduced in blue) and a narrow ionised Hydrogen-alpha band filter (reproduced in red). The data for this image were gathered using the Wide Field Camera on the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) in La Palma, Canary Islands. Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK