Elephants’ trunks in outer space

Gaseous elephants’ trunks in the constellation of Monoceros. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Several elephant trunks have been spotted lining up along the edges of a cosmic hole.

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has captured an image of huge pillars of gas within the star forming dust and gas known as Sh2-284.

Sh2-284 is located at the end of one of the outer spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy, within the constellation of Monoceros. It’s located at the opposite side of the night sky in relation to the galaxy’s centre.

The pillars are seen as gas trunks pointing towards the centre of Sh2-284’s void. The most notable trunk is seven light years long, on the right side (three ‘o’ clock) of the void.

Sh2-284 contains a star cluster, Dolidze 25, which is emitting stellar winds and large amounts of radiation. The radiation and the winds are creating a void within the surrounding dust and gas.

The green wall surrounding the void shows just how far the gas has been eroded. However, some of the denser pockets have been able to resist the erosion and have protected the gas downwind of them, creating the gaseous elephant trunks.

The most famous examples of elephant trunks are the ‘Pillars of Creation’, located within the Eagle nebula.

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