Elephant’s Trunk Nebula (IC 1396A)
The Elephant’s Trunk nebula (IC 1396A) is a concentration of interstellar gas and dust in the star cluster IC 1396 and ionized gas region located in the constellation Cepheus about 2,400 light years away from Earth. The piece of the nebula shown here is the dark, dense globule IC 1396A; it is commonly called the Elephant Trunk nebula because of its appearance at visible wavelengths, where it is a dark patch with a bright, sinuous rim. The bright rim is the surface of the dense cloud that is being illuminated and ionized by a very bright, massive star that is just to the west of IC 1396A.
The Elephant Trunk nebula is now thought to be site of star formation, containing several very young (less than 100,000 yr) stars that were discovered in infrared images in 2003. Two older (but still young, a couple of million years) stars are present in a small, circular cavity in the head of the globule. Winds from these young stars may have emptied the cavity.