NGC 2264

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NGC 2264
Diffuse nebula
NGC 2264.jpg
An infrared Spitzer Space Telescope image of NGC 2264
Credit: SIRTF/NASA/ESA.
Observation data: J2000.0 epoch
Subtype emission nebula
Right ascension 6h 41m[1]
Declination +9° 53′[1]
Distance ~2600 ly
Apparent magnitude (V) 3.9[1]
Apparent dimensions (V) 20′
Constellation Monoceros
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:

Two other objects are within this designation but not officially included:

All of the objects are located in the Monoceros constellation and are located about 800 parsecs or 2600 light-years from Earth.

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.

NGC2264 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 Monoceros constellation is not typically visible by the naked eye due to its lack of colossal stars.

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.

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

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Coordinates: Sky map 06h 41m 00s, +09° 53′ 00″