Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The Christmas Tree cluster is a colorful collection of stars about 2,600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Monoceros, the unicorn.

The cluster was first discovered in the 18th century but was captured anew in this stunning image by by the 2.2-meter Max Planck Society/ESO telescope at La Silla observatory in the Atacama Desert. The telescope was outfitted with a specialized astronomical camera called the Wide Field Imager and a series of filters, and then aimed at the cluster for 10 hours to get the full-color image above.

The swirling gas clouds appear red because of ultraviolet light emanating from the young, hot stars that look like blue ornaments on a Christmas tree. The triangular feature near the bottom of the photo is an area of gas called the Cone Nebula.

The brightest star, at the top of the image, can be seen by the naked eye. The furry texture of the light to its right earned that area the name Fox Fur Nebula.

Sleep well everyone.

No comments: