Stellar nursery is a giant, gaseous mountain range

This is nebula NGC 2174, located about 6400 light-years away. This amazing photograph makes the nebula look like the peak of a giant dust mountain, with strange pink stars dominating its summit. In fact, the stars are locked in cosmic battle with the gas mountain, and it's only a matter of time before the stars emerge victorious and destroy this ghostly peak.

Here's what NASA has to say about this beautiful image:

The energetic light and winds from massive newly formed stars are evaporating and dispersing the dark stellar nurseries in which they formed. The structures of NGC 2174 are actually much thinner than air and only appear as mountains due to relatively small amounts of opaque interstellar dust. A lesser known sight in the nebula-rich constellation Orion, NGC 2174 can be found with binoculars near the head of the celestial hunter.

About 6,400 light-years distant, the entire glowing cosmic cloud covers an area larger than the full Moon and surrounds loose open clusters of young stars. The above image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a dense interior region which spans only about three light years while adopting a color map that portrays otherwise red hydrogen emission in green hues and emphasizes sulfur emission in red and oxygen in blue. Within a few million years, the stars will likely win out completely and the entire dust mountain will be dispersed.

Be sure to check out NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day for an even better look at this amazing image.

Via NASA.