See a cosmic Christmas tree and a world of celestial snow in new NASA images

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

New observations taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope show clusters of stars resembling a glowing Christmas tree with lights and glowing snow globes.

Also known as NGC 2264, 2,500 light-years from Earth.Christmas tree cluster,” where a group of young stars surrounded by a nebula’s gas cloud evokes a cosmic verdure adorned with twinkling lights.

Stars are between 1 million and 5 million years old, and they vary in size – some smaller and some larger than our Sun. The new composite image, rotated 160 degrees clockwise so that the top of the tree is upright, includes different wavelengths of light detected by Chandra and ground-based probes.

In Animated version of the film, the glowing blue and white lights represent X-ray light from young stars detected by Chandra. Meanwhile, a cloud of gas resembling a festive tree glows green, as seen by the National Science Foundation’s WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert.

Observations in infrared light by the Two Micron All Sky Survey, which operated between 1997 and 2001, revealed bright white stars throughout the image. Studying the young stars in the Christmas Tree cluster provides insight into their volatility. Young stars can emit flares more powerful than our Sun Astronomers are still investigating events.

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The Hubble Space Telescope had to look far to find a celestial winter wonderland. Hubble observed billions of stars shining within the dwarf galaxy UGC 8091It is 7 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

The constellation of stars looks like a hopelessly tangled string of lights hastily tossed on at the end of a holiday season. This disorder results from UGC 8091 being an irregular galaxy, lacking the structured appearance of a spiral or elliptical galaxy.

NASA/Hubble/ESA

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

No two irregular galaxies look alike, and they appear in a range of sizes and shapes. The shape of an irregular galaxy can be the result of interactions with other galaxies, as well as internal turbulence caused by celestial objects such as starbursts.

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 revealed in a composite image from these observations comes from newborn stars, while the glowing pinkish-red fissures may be hydrogen molecules that heat up after interacting with light from young, energetic stars. Meanwhile, other luminous features in the image include old stars and distant background galaxies.

Dwarf galaxies were common early in the universe’s history and eventually merged to form larger, more structured galaxies. By studying distant dwarf galaxies and their stars, astronomers can learn about galactic evolution.

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