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Star Cluster and Nebula NGC 2264

Strange shapes and textures can be found in star cluster NGC 2264. The unusual shapes originate from fine interstellar dust reacting in complex ways with the energetic light and hot gas being expelled by the young stars. The brightest star at the top of the above picture is S Mon, while the region just to the left of it has been nicknamed the Fox Fur Nebula for its color and structure. The blue glow directly surrounding S Mon results from reflection, where neighboring dust reflects light from the bright star. The orange glow that encompasses the whole region results not only from dust reflection but also emission from hydrogen gas ionized by starlight. The young open star cluster NGC 2264 is located about 2500 light years away toward the constellation of Monoceros. The origin of the mysterious geometric Cone Nebula, visible at the lower right, remains a mystery.

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