To the Stars

The Monkey Head Nebula


Here’s a deep space object that is worthy of its name, The Monkey Head Nebula (NGC 2174). Unlike the famous Great Orion Nebula, NGC 2174 shines primarily in hydrogen alpha  light. This 6,400-light-year-distant giant molecular cloud is located above Orion’s head near the bright alpha star Betelgeuse. It is being reshaped and ionized by stellar energy from newborn stars forming within it. You can see two of the stars embedded in the reddish glow of the monkey’s “ear.” A dark streamer appears to emanate from a star a bit above the monkey’s “eye.” Interesting shapes form as this cloud condenses to form stars. It reminds me of lying on the ground on a summer day and looking at the shapes of cumulus clouds as they are formed by heat, moisture, and winds.