The HII region IC 1396 is located in the constellation of Cepheus covering an area of about 3° in the sky. The O5-type star HD206267 is responsible for the glowing of the nebula. This star is part of a young cluster in the center of the HII region. On the west side the dark globule IC1396A spreads into the bright parts of the nebula. It is called Elephant's trunk. Many other dark globules and dust lanes give hint of very dense interstellar matter.
The bright star on the northern rim of the image is μ Cephei one of the brightest and largest stars known in our galaxy. It is located in the foreground of the nebula which is about 2.400 light years away.
The Elephant's trunk (IC 1396A+B, vdB 142) is the most striking globule in IC 1396. The dark globule consists of dense gas and dust clouds interacting with the intense radiation of hot O-type stars. This radiation ionizes gas on the outer rim of the globule producing a dim glowing. Strong stellar winds blow away matter from the globule and cause the shape of the globule's borders. Star formation continues Inside the globule: Two young stars have created a cavity near to the top of the globule and became visible in that way. vdB 142 is just a small part of the globule - a tiny blue reflection nebula near to the top of the trunk.