NGC 2264

Coordinates: Sky map 06h 41m 00s, +09° 53′ 00″
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NGC 2264
Diffuse nebula
NGC 2264.jpg
An infrared Spitzer Space Telescope image of NGC 2264
Observation data: J2000.0 epoch
Subtypeemission nebula
Right ascension6h 41m [1]
Declination+9° 53′[1]
Distance2350 ± 52 ly   (719 ± 16[2] pc)
Apparent magnitude (V)3.9[1]
Apparent dimensions (V)20′
DesignationsNGC 2264, Cr 112
See also: Lists of nebulae

NGC 2264 is the designation number of the New General Catalogue that identifies two astronomical objects as a single object: the Cone Nebula, and the Christmas Tree Cluster. Two other objects are within this designation but not officially included, the Snowflake Cluster,[3][4] and the Fox Fur Nebula.[5]

All of the objects are located in the Monoceros constellation and are located about 720 parsecs or 2,300 light-years from Earth.[2] Due to its relative proximity and large size, it is extremely well studied.[6]

NGC 2264 is sometimes referred to as the Christmas Tree Cluster and the Cone Nebula. However, the designation of NGC 2264 in the New General Catalogue refers to both objects and not the cluster alone.[7]


NGC 2264: Cone Nebula at bottom with inverted Christmas Tree cluster above the cone; the bright star just above the cone is the tree topper and the very bright star at the top of the image (S Monocerotis) is the center of the tree trunk. The Fox Fur Nebula is at the top right corner. The Snowflake nebula is in the middle which shows up better on the infrared image. Credit ESO

NGC 2264 is the location where the Cone Nebula, the Stellar Snowflake Cluster and the Christmas Tree Cluster have formed in this emission nebula. For reference, the Stellar Snowflake Cluster is located 2,700 light years away in the constellation Monoceros.

The Snowflake Cluster was granted its name due to its unmistakable pinwheel-like shape and its assortment of bright colors. The Christmas Tree star formation consists of young stars obscured by heavy layers of dust clouds. These dust clouds, along with hydrogen and helium are producing luminous new stars. The combination of dense clouds and an array of colors creates a color map filled with varying wavelengths. As seen in the photographs taken by the Spitzer Space telescope, we are able to differentiate between young red stars and older blue stars.

With varying youthful stars comes vast changes to the overall structure of the clusters and nebula. For a cluster to be considered a Snowflake, it must remain in the original location the star was formed.

When referring to this emission nebula overall, there are several aspects that contribute to the prominent configuration of a snowflake and/or Christmas tree cluster. There is a diverse arrangement of brilliant colors, and an evolving process of structure that follow star formation in a nebula.

The ratio of brown dwarfs to stars is between 1 to 2.5 and 1 to 7.5.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "NGC 2264". SIMBAD. Centre de données astronomiques de Strasbourg. Retrieved 9 May 2007.
  2. ^ a b Maíz Apellániz, J. (2019). "Gaia DR2 distances to Collinder 419 and NGC 2264 and new astrometric orbits for HD 193 322 Aa,Ab and 15 Mon Aa,Ab". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 630: A119. arXiv:1908.02040. Bibcode:2019A&A...630A.119M. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201935885. S2CID 199452805.
  3. ^ Image sig05-028 Archived 2006-09-07 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Tom's Astronomy Blog » Blog Archive » The Christmas Tree Cluster". Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2006.
  5. ^ Nemiroff, R.; Bonnell, J., eds. (1 July 2002). "The Fox Fur Nebula". Astronomy Picture of the Day. NASA.
  6. ^ a b Pearson, Samuel; Scholz, Aleks; Teixeira, Paula S.; Mužić, Koraljka; Almendros-Abad, Víctor (2021). "The first spectroscopically confirmed brown dwarfs in NGC 2264". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 507 (3): 4074–4085. doi:10.1093/mnras/stab2394. hdl:10023/24020.
  7. ^ Seligman, Courtney. "New General Catalogue objects: NGC 2250 - 2299". Retrieved 9 September 2021.

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