Last month, the Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 24th birthday. And in honor of this occasion, NASA has released a video entitled “Evaporating Peaks – Pillars in the Monkey Head Nebula”. This video, which showcases visible and infrared light views of a collection of pillars along one edge of the Monkey Head Nebula (also known as NGC 2174) is just the latest in series of simulations that attempt to recreate what it would be like to step into a major stellar body.
Like all nebulas, NGC 2174 is a star-forming region in which bright, newborn stars near the center of the nebula illuminate the surrounding gas, creating the brilliant images we see in the video. The radiation from these stars, combined with strong stellar winds, also erode areas of lower density gases, which in turn causes pockets of higher density gas to turn into visible formations. This is what leads to the creation of the pillars and peaks of gas that run along the inner edge of this roughly circular cloud.
The sequence begins with a view of the night sky near the constellation of Gemini and Orion and then zooms through observations from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 to reveal a Hubble Space Telescope visible light view of the top of this region of pillars.