See a cosmic Christmas tree and celestial snowball in new NASA images

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New images taken by two NASA space telescopes show how light from young stars can decorate the universe with holiday cheer.

Clusters of stars resembling a Christmas tree aglow with lights and a sparkling snow globe sparkle in new observations taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, respectively.

NGC 2264, which is about 2,500 light-years from Earth, is also called “Christmas tree set“, where a cluster of young stars surrounded by a gaseous cloud of nebula, evokes a cosmic evergreen vegetation decorated with twinkling lights.

Stars range from 1 million to 5 million years old, and they vary in size, some smaller and some larger than our sun. The new composite image, which has been rotated clockwise by 160 degrees so that the top of the tree is upright, includes different wavelengths of light detected by Chandra as well as ground surveys.

in Animated version of the imageThe flashing blue and white lights represent X-ray light from the young stars discovered by Chandra. Meanwhile, the holiday tree-like gas cloud glows with green optical light, as seen through the National Science Foundation’s 0.9-meter WIYN telescope on Kit Peak in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert.

The bright white stars throughout the image were detected by observations in infrared light using the Two Micron All Sky Survey, conducted between 1997 and 2001. Studying young stars like those within the Christmas Tree Cluster provides insight into their fickle nature. Young stars can emit powerful flares more powerful than those of our Sun Astronomers are still investigating phenomena.

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The Hubble Space Telescope had to look a little further to find a celestial winter wonderland. Hubble observed a billion stars twinkling inside a dwarf galaxy named UGC8091Which is 7 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

The galactic arrangement of stars looks like tangled strings of lights hastily put together at the end of the holiday season. This disorder is the result of UGC 8091 being an irregular galaxy that lacks the organized appearance of a spiral or elliptical galaxy.


A billion stars twinkle inside the dwarf galaxy UGC 8091, 7 million light-years away.

No two irregular galaxies look alike, rather they appear in a variety of sizes and shapes. The galaxy’s irregular shape can be the result of interactions with other galaxies, as well as internal disturbances caused by celestial bodies such as exploding stars.

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys observed UGC 8091 in different wavelengths of light. The data was collected between 2006 and 2021.

The blue light detected in composite form from these observations comes from newborn stars, while the glowing red and pink spots may be hydrogen molecules that have heated up after interacting with light from young, active stars. Meanwhile, other bright features in the image include older stars and distant background galaxies.

Dwarf galaxies were common early in the universe’s history, and eventually merged to form larger, more organized galaxies. Astronomers can learn about galaxy evolution by studying distant dwarf galaxies and their stars.

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