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Wildrik Botjes Planetarium
Physics & Astronomy Department

Astr110 Photography Projects, Spring 2010

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Christmas Tree Cluster (NGC 2264), Suzanna Brown

NGC2264

The Christmas Tree Cluster is an open star cluster found in the Monoceros, or unicorn, constellation. An open star cluster is a galactic cluster of physically related groups of stars that are held together by gravitational attraction. These open clusters supposedly originate from large cosmic gas and/or dust clouds within the Milky Way galaxy, and they continue to orbit through the galaxy's disk. The formation of stars still takes place within the nebula of the open star clusters, so it is possible to observe the formation of new stars and star clusters within these regions. The whole Christmas Tree Cluster is in a star-forming molecular cloud. The Christmas Tree Cluster was first discovered by William Herschel on January 18, 1784. Herschel catalogued the cluster as H VIII.5. The cluster is approximately 2,400 light-years away from Earth.

In this image, the nebula cloud of the star cluster is not visible. Usually, red swirling clouds of gas can be seen surrounding the Christmas Tree Cluster. Part of this nebula is known as the Cone Nebula which is also a part of the Monoceros constellation. The approximate angular size of the cluster in this image is 16.3x12.2 arc minutes. The approximate linear size is 11.4x8.5 light-years. These calculations are based on the estimated distance of the cluster equaling 2400 light-years.

References:
Mason, Betsy. "Spectacular Space Photo of the Christmas Tree Cluster." Wired Science. <http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/12/xmastreecluster/>.

Frommert, Hartmut and Kronberg, Christine. "NGC 2264." Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. <http://www.seds.org/messier/xtra/ngc/n2264.html>

Right Ascension (J2000) 06:41:06
Declination (J2000) +09:53:00
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 20x15 seconds in C and BVR
Date observed

March 4, 2010(C)
March 4, 2010 (BVR)

03:16:37 AM