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Updated December 21st, 2023 at 13:26 IST

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Captures 'Cosmic Christmas Tree' In Space

The image creates a likeness to a Christmas tree by employing color choices and rotation as captured by NASA.

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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Captures 'Cosmic Christmas Tree'. | Image:NASA
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As the globe prepares for the holiday season, NASA has released a breathtaking image of a space Christmas tree, infusing an otherworldly essence into the festive spirit.

The space agency characterized the image as a capture of a grouping of youthful stars resembling a celestial Christmas tree. This cluster, named NGC 2264, resides in our Milky Way Galaxy, approximately 2,500 light-years away from Earth. Within the cluster, stars vary in size, ranging from relatively small to large, with masses spanning from one-tenth to seven times that of our sun.

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In this composite image, the Christmas tree likeness of the cluster has been accentuated through the selection of colors and image rotation. The wispy green lines and shapes, representing optical data, form the branches and needles of the tree shape.

In an image article, the space agency explains that young stars, such as those in NGC 2264, exhibit volatility, experiencing intense flares in X-rays and other light variations. 

The synchronized blinking variations depicted in this animation, though, are artificially created to accentuate the positions of the stars observed in X-rays and underscore the resemblance of this object to a Christmas tree.

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The observed variations by Chandra and other telescopes result from various processes. Some are linked to magnetic field-related activities, such as flares similar to those experienced by the Sun but on a much more potent scale, along with hot spots and dark regions on the stars' surfaces that become visible and concealed as the stars rotate. 

In addition to this, variations can occur due to changes in the thickness of gas obstructing the stars and fluctuations in the amount of material still accreting onto the stars from the surrounding gas disks.

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Published December 21st, 2023 at 13:22 IST

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