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Elephant's Trunk Nebula

To some, this portion of reflection nebula IC 1396 resembles an elephant's trunk. The structure of this "dark globule" is seen better in the infrared.

IC 1396 is one of the largest emission nebula complexes in the night sky, stretching some three degrees—ten times the diameter of the moon. The whole nebula is shown below.

The nebula is iluminated by the bright yellow star at the upper left of the image below. The star is "mu Cephei," a red supergiant star with a diameter larger than the orbit of Saturn, some 2536 times the diameter of the Sun. It is one of the largest stars we know of. It is very red with a B-V magnitude of 2.5. Also called Herschel's Garnet Star, mu Cephi is a variable star that varies in magnitude from 3.4 to 5.1 over a period of approximately 730 days. It's absolute visual magnitude is –6.7, which is 38,000 times brighter than the Sun.

The nebula is located about 1500 light years from the Earth.

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Nebula IC 1396