The most beautiful Christmas photo of 2023 comes from space

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It’s officially called in space NGC 2264, but was renamed the “Christmas Tree Cluster” by NASA scientists who just released an image of it yesterday. It is a cluster of young stars located approximately in our galaxy 2500 light years away from earth. The stars that make it up are between one and five million years old, and their mass can vary from a tenth to seven times the mass of the Sun.

Composite image

The Christmas aspect, NASA explains in an article accompanying the image, is due color selection associated with different wavelengths and turn around 160 degrees clockwise from the original shot relative to astronomical north to make the tree appear as if it were actually positioned vertically.

The blue and white “lights”. I am x-ray referring to young stars, seen by the eyes of NASA’s Chandra telescope, designed precisely to detect this type of wavelengths in relatively hot regions of space, characterized by the presence of exploded stars, galaxy clusters or matter found near a black hole. The “green needles” fir instead correspond to the wavelengths emitted nebular gasphotographed by the National Science Foundation’s WIYN telescope located on Kitt Peak, Arizona.

Christmas lights

And to add an extra Christmas touch, NASA scientists have also created aanimation (visible at this link) in which the white and blue lights turn off and on at the same time, as happens when lighting a tree. Let’s say it’s an effect inspired by being in space young stars tend to radiate strong flashes in X-rays, which, as you can imagine, are usually out of sync. Even in this case, it is a small (and declared) trick, which almost seems to get to know this corner of the Universe so far from Earth a little more.

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