What do the following things have in common: a cone, the fur of a fox, and a Christmas tree?
Answer: they all occur in the constellation of the unicorn (Monoceros). Pictured above as a
star forming region cataloged as NGC 2264, the complex jumble of cosmic gas and dust is about
2,700 light-years distant and mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from
newborn stars with dark interstellar dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds
lie close to the hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae.
Its cast of cosmic characters includes the Fox Fur Nebula, whose
convoluted pelt lies at the upper left, bright variable star S Mon immersed in the blue-tinted
haze just below the Fox Fur, and the Cone Nebula at the far right. Of course, the stars of
NGC 2264 are also known as the Christmas Tree star cluster. The triangular tree shape traced
by the stars appears sideways here, with its apex at the Cone Nebula and its broader base
centered near S Mon.
[Text from APOD]