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NASA discovers "Christmas Tree Cluster" of stars glowing in space: "It's beginning to look a lot like cosmos"

One year of images from James Webb Telescope
Celebrating one year of images from the James Webb Space Telescope 05:47

Your living room isn't the only place housing a large green Christmas tree with sparkling lights this year. NASA has found a spot in space with its own glowing cosmic tree for the holiday season. 

The object in question is named NGC 2264, otherwise known as the "Christmas Tree Cluster," and is a formation of young stars – some of which are larger than the sun – between the ages of 1 and 5 million years old. NASA says the cluster lies in the Milky Way, roughly 2,500 light-years from Earth. 

"It's beginning to look a like cosmos," NASA joked in a tweet about the cluster. 

A composite image of the star cluster makes NGC 2264 look like a Christmas tree, NASA said, with a bright green glow and what looks like blue and white sparkling lights. But rather than being pine needles and string lights, the green glow is actually gas, while the blue and white sparkles are young stars emitting X-rays. The blue and white dots aren't blinking in sync as depicted in the composite, NASA said, and were coordinated as such "to emphasize the locations of the stars...and highlight the similarity of this object to a Christmas tree." 

NASA announced the new image just weeks after the James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope revealed their own holiday discovery – a "Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster" roughly 4.3 billion light-years from Earth that's one of the most detailed views of the universe ever depicted. 

"We're calling MACS0416 the Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster, both because it's so colorful and because of these flickering lights we find within it," said astronomer Haojing Yan, one of the study authors. "We can see transients everywhere."

The cluster image is among "unprecedented" deep views of the universe, and includes a visual of an ancient star nicknamed "Mothra" that is believed to have existed 11 billion years ago – long before the sun in our solar system formed. 

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