This eerie, dark structure, resembling an imaginary sea serpent's head, is a column of cool molecular hydrogen gas (two atoms of hydrogen in each molecule) and dust that is an incubator for new stars. The stars are embedded inside finger-like protrusions extending from the top of the nebula. Each "fingertip" is somewhat larger than our own solar system. The pillar is slowly eroding away by the ultraviolet light from nearby hot stars, a proces called "photoevaporation." As it does, small globules of especially dense gas buried within the cloud is uncovered. These globules have been dubbed 'EGGs', an acronym for 'Evaporating Gaseous Globules.'
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society