The Cone Nebula, or NGC 2264, is a dark nebula located 2,500 lightyears away in the Monoceros constellation.
The nebula is 7 lightyears long and is packed full of dense gas and dust – the ingredients necessary for star formation – making it a perfect stellar factory.
This tempestuous deep-sky region contains scorching hot young stars that are eroding and carving out the dark nebula, also emitting blasts of powerful ultraviolet light that can be seen illuminating the edges of the dense cosmic cloud.
The NGC 2264 region also contains an open star cluster known as the Christmas Tree Cluster, as it forms a sparkling triangular shape that makes it look rather like a festive fir.
A Hubble Space Telescope image of the Cone Nebula. Credit: Credit: NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (UCSC/LO), M.Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team, and ESA
The Cone Nebula itself is reminiscent of the Pillars of Creation, part of M16, The Eagle Nebula, famously imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope.
It too is a dense region of gas and dust and a prolific star-forming region.
Below is a selection of images of the Cone Nebula captured by BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers and astrophotographers from around the world.
For more information about photographing nebulae, read our guide to deep-sky astrophotography or find out how to fine-tune your images with our guide to image processing.
And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Cone Nebula Widefield View in Ha by Dave Trewren, Bristol, UK. Equipment: QHY9M, Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED, HEQ5, StarShoot, modified finder scope, Baader Ha narrowband.
Cone Nebula colour widefield view in Ha by Dave Trewren, Bristol, UK. Equipment: QHY9M, Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED, HEQ5, StarShoot, modified finder scope, Baader Ha narrowband.
NGC2264, Christmas Tree Cluster and Cone Nebula by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK. Equipment: TeleVue NP127is Refractor, 0.8x focal reducer, Atik490EX, Losmandy G11, TV Pronto, SX Lodestar.
NGC2264 – Christmas Tree Cluster, Cone Nebula by Alastair Woodward, Derby, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 130PDS, HEQ5, Canon 350d (mono – self debayered), 6nm Ha Clip Filter, PHD2, ST80, QHY5L-II.
Christmas Tree Cluster and surrounding Nebulae in HST by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK. Equipment: Televue NP127is, Moravian G4-1600, 10-Micron GM2000HPS-II, unguided, Chroma 3nM Ha, OIII and SII
Cone Nebula and Hubble Variable by Paul Gordon, Rochford, Essex, UK. Equipment: Borg 77ED II Refractor, Modded Canon EOS 1000D DSLR, CLS light pollution filter, Skyscan HEQ5 pro mount.
NGC2264 – Cone Nebula and Christmas Tree Cluster in SHO Narrowband by Simon Todd, Haywards Heath, UK. Equipment: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8-CF Imaging Newtonian, Skywatcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector, Atik 383L+ Mono CCD, Celestron Telescopes C80ED Refractor, Qhyccd QHY5L-II Mono, Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro, Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW, Baader Planetarium 7nm HA, OIII and SII 36mm Unmounted.
NGC 2264 (Cone Nebula) by Jeff Johnson, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA. Equipment: Takahashi FS-60C, Takahashi EM200 Temma II, QSI 540wsg, SX Lodestar, Astrodon Ha (3nm), Astrodon Tru-Balance I-Series LRGB Gen 2.
Cone Nebula by Fernando Oliveira De Menezes, Chapada Guimaraes, Mt, Brazil. Equipment: APO 80mm TS 6 elements, ASI 1600mm cooled, H-Alpha and L.
Cone Nebula And Christmas Tree by Gerard Tartalo Montardit, Lleida, Spain. Equipment: Canon EOS 600D modified, coma corrector baader mpcc, newton skywatcher 150/750 pds, skywatcher neq6 pro2, guiding with phd2, zwo asi 290mc and newton celestron 130/650.
NGC 2264 (Cone Nebula) and Surroundings by Jeffrey O. Johnson, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA. Equipment: TOA-130F, EM200, QSI690wsg.
NGC 2264 by Ian J Crichton, Dalgety Bay, Scotland. Equipment: NEQ6 PRO, TASPO 130Q @f/5, Canon 70D modified, Astronomik UHC, 6nm H-alpha clip in filters,SX Lodestar x2 mono CCD