Infrared image of NGC 2264, showing the Snowflake Cluster as a scattering of stars near the centre
|Observation data (J2000.0 epoch)|
|Other designations||NGC 2264|
The stars appear to have formed in regularly spaced intervals along linear structures in a configuration that resembles the spokes of a wheel or the pattern of a snowflake. Hence, astronomers have nicknamed their new discovery the "Snowflake Cluster."
Scientists believe that these are very young protostars, or newborn stars. At a mere 100,000 years old, these infant structures have yet to "crawl" away from their location of birth. Over time, the natural drifting motions of each star will break this order, and the snowflake design will be no more. The Spitzer observations show that just as theory predicts, the density and temperature of the initial star-forming cloud dictates the spacing between the protostars.
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