Picture of the Month for 2021
The NGC 2264 in Monoceros
January 2021 - Picture of the Month
Is the open cluster the main feature in this image I wonder? Perhaps I've misnamed this month's article, but NGC 2264 does refer to the Cone Nebula, at the bottom of the frame, and the Christmas Tree Cluser that provides bright star at its tip.
But that hardly covers the extent of the nebulosity here. The Fox Fur Nebula is towards the top right, and shows wonderful texture (that's much better in the version of Thomas's website). The field is full of glowing dust!
The bright star near the centre of this image is magnitude 4.66 S (15) Monocerotis that lights up the nebula with a hint of blue reflection. Jim Kaler points out that this is actually two large stars (12 and 18 solar masses) in a close orbit of about 26 AU, so you're not going to split that. But you might like to know that it's also an uneven double with a magnitude 8.5 companion about 3" distant (STF 950 AB).
The open cluster is easy to observe with binoculars or small telescopes, this field is about a degree across so it's not small. Unfortunately it takes a large telescope and filters to make much of that glorious nebulosity visually. However, as demonstrated here, it is a spectacular target for those with a camera.
James Whinfrey - Website Administrator.