NASA gifts us with photo of ‘Christmas Tree Cluster’ in Milky Way

The cluster is 2,500 light years from Earth and composed of stars younger than 5 million years old

NASA releases image of , "Christmas Tree Cluster".The cluster of young stars with ages from about 1 million to 5 million years old.It is in our Milky Way about 2,500 light-years away from Earth.The stars in NGC 2264 are both smaller and larger than the Sun, according to NASA.The composite image enhances the resemblance to a Christmas tree through color and rotation

Just in time for the holidays, NASA released a composite image of NGC 2264, also known as the “Christmas Tree Cluster.” It “shows the shape of a cosmic tree with the glow of stellar lights,” the agency stated.

The cluster — about 2,500 light years from Earth — is composed of young stars with ages from 1 million to 5 million years old. The stars range in size from less than a tenth the mass of the Sun to about seven solar masses.

The image, from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, is a composite enhanced with rotation and color choices. Data from the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak shows gas in the nebula as green to mimic pine needles. Data from the Two Micron All Sky Survey stars in the fore- and backgrounds are shown in white.

NASA does admit it created the coordinated blinking lights in its animation — “The variations of the stars are not synchronized,” they wrote — though young stars do undergo flares that can be “seen” as X-rays and other types of light.

The photo is also rotated about 150 degrees to give it a more conical tree shape and make it easier for viewers to see the image.

The rotation, NASA added, “doesn’t address the slight bare patch in the tree’s branches, at our lower right, which should probably be turned to the corner.”