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Starts With A Bang

The Christmas Tree Cluster

Light up your holidays with the greatest natural show the sky has to offer!

“Bethany: Is your house on fire, Clark?
Clark: No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.”
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

It’s the night before Christmas, but little did you know,
that up in the skies, there’s a tree all aglow?

Image credit: Flickr user Alicia, via

With a brilliant blue base and great starry outlines,
the real tree shows up thanks to hydrogen’s signs!

Image credit: T.A. Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOAO/AURA/NSF) and B.A. Wolpa (NOAO/AURA/NSF).

From twenty-six hundred great light-years away,
it’s a great festive treat to be seen Christmas day.

Image credit: the astrophotographers of Cosmotography, via

With decorative wonders throughout that won’t stop,
the Cone Nebula is the angel on top!

Image credit: © 2004–2013 by Dan Lessmann, via

With only great care can you see what’s in store,
As every new element shows a bit more.

Image credit: Zwintz, K., Hareter, M., Kuschnig, R. et al., 2009, A&A, 502, 239, via

The blue light reflects while the gas glows deep red,
while the stars are for you, if you look overhead.

Image credit: Jim Thommes, via

Just star-hop from Orion: from Betelgeuse, leap east,
then a small step up north, for an eye-catching feast.

Image credit: me, using the free software Stellarium, available at The purple line traces out the eastward leap; the halfway point from Betelgeuse to Gomeisa, if you connect it to Xi Geminorum, will lead you to NGC 2264.

Once you’re there, stars — like baubles — will light up your tree,
with more sights unveiled through night photography.

Image credit: Giacomo Zacchi of Astrobrallo, via

While the greatest of pictures comes from ESO,
as the full suite of science puts on quite a show.

Image credit: European Southern Observatory / Wide Field Imager at ESO’s La Silla Observatory.

So this holiday, don’t give a dustbuster,
Instead, share the joy of the Christmas Tree Cluster!

Leave your holiday comments at the Starts With A Bang forum on Scienceblogs!


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