Fr.: trompe d'éléphant
An elongated structure of → interstellar dust and gas which absorbs the radiation from background stars in an → H II region. These structures are the denser remnants of → molecular clouds from which → massive stars are formed. Elephant trunks are eventually dissipated by the action of the → ionizing radiation and → stellar wind of the associated massive stars. A remarkable example of these structures is displayed by the → HST image of the → Eagle Nebula as → pillars of obscuring matter protruding from the interior wall of a dark molecular cloud. Some → Bok globules may represent the remaining densest fragments of elephant trunks.
M.E. elephant, from O.Fr. olifant, from L. elephantus, from Gk. elephas "elephant, ivory," probably from a non-I.E. language, likely via Phoenician; trunk, from M.E. trunke, O.Fr. tronc, from L. truncus "stem, trunk, stump."
Xortum "the proboscis of an elephant," loanword from Ar. xartum; fil, pil "elephant," from Mid.Pers. pil "elephant;" O.Pers. piru- "ivory."