Located 2,500 light-years away in our Milky Way, NGC 2264 is a gathering of youthful stars, ranging from one to five million years old. These stars exhibit diverse sizes, spanning from those much smaller than our Sun to others with seven times its mass.
The image has been artfully crafted to accentuate the Christmas tree resemblance, employing a palette of colors and a strategic rotation.
The twinkling blue and white lights, visible in the animated version, represent young stars emitting X-rays captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Green hues, derived from optical data of the nebula by the National Science Foundation’s WIYN 0.9-meter telescope, depict gaseous elements resembling the “pine needles” of the cosmic tree.
Infrared data from the Two Micron All Sky Survey adds white specks, showcasing foreground and background stars.
To enhance the visual appeal, the image has been rotated clockwise by approximately 160 degrees, offering a unique perspective with the tree’s top positioned towards the upper part of the image.
X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: T.A. Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOIRLab/NSF/AURA) and B.A. Wolpa (NOIRLab/NSF/AURA); Infrared: NASA/NSF/IPAC/CalTech/Univ. of Massachusetts; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare & J.Major