Hubble's Variable Nebula NGC 2261

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Hubble's Variable Nebula NGC 2261 Gregg1956 4/11/12 12:29 PM
Comet!? No- this object was put into the correct category as a diffuse nebula. The bright star at the tip of the cloud of gas is called R Monocerotis. It is a variable star that is actually in the background of the this cloud of gas. The gas cloud is around 1 light year in extent and due to the variability of R Mon- the entire nebula changes in its brightness. However, R Mon is mysterious because the mechanism of its variations is uncertain. The most accepted explanation is that there exist clouds of gas and dust very close to R Mon; and these clouds eclipse R Mon (as they orbit about it) casting shadows onto the foreground nebula.
Source: Best of AOP - NOAO

Optics Info & more at above link.

Astrophotography by Adam Block in the kmz.

Image Credit: Carole Westphal/Adam Block/NOAO/ AURA/NSF