NGC 2264 - The Christmas Tree Cluster,
Cone Nebula and Fox Fur Nebula

MouseOver for object identification, Click on image for a zoomable, full resolution version

Image Credits

Image data courtesy of Chilescope

Image processing by Thomas Henne

Location / Date

Chile, Oct 2018 - Jan 2019

Telescope / Mount / Guiding

ASA 50cm Astrograph (focal length 1900mm)

Camera / Exposure

FLI Proline 16803

L         60 x 10min
R         26 x 5min bin2x2
G        23 x 5min bin2x2
B        26 x 5min bin2x2
Hα       35 x 20min

Total exposure time: 27h 55min


PixInsight, Fitswork, Photoshop


The star forming region catalogued as NGC 2264 in the New General Catalogue 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 and the Fox Fur Nebula.
All the objects are located in the constellation Monoceros and about 2600 light-years away from Earth.

NGC 2264 is a star forming region with the young and bright star S Mon (15 Mon) in its middle. The blue glow directly surrounding S Mon results from reflection, where neighboring dust reflects light from the bright star. The complex jumble of cosmic gas and dust mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from newborn stars with dark interstellar dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close to the hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae.
There are also many Herbig-Haro-Objects visible, which refers to active star formation. Their shape and color is characteristic of glowing hydrogen gas shocked by jets streaming away from newborn stars.

The Fox Fur Nebula has a strange shape originate from fine interstellar dust reacting in complex ways with the energetic light and hot gas being expelled by the young stars.

With other brighter stars S Mon forms the Christmas Tree Cluster (in this image inverted). The top of the Christmas Tree is just above the Cone Nebula. The Cone Nebula is a cone shaped dark nebula in front of a bright, red emission nebula.

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