Young stars found in Christmas tree nebula - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Young stars found in Christmas tree nebula

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Posted: Friday, December 23, 2005 10:16 am | Updated: 9:28 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — in outer space. Astronomers led by University of Arizona researcher Erick Young have spotted a group of newborn stars sprouting from a nebula, or cluster of stars, that looks like a Christmas tree.

While snapping images of the nebula "Christmas Tree Cluster" with special infrared cameras, scientists noticed that another cluster was attached to the tree.

Scientists determined this new cluster is a group of stars that are relatively young -- less than 100,000 years old. On film, the new cluster looks like a large crystal. The astronomers have named this twinkling nebula the "Snowflake Cluster."

These two clusters look big in pictures, but are very far away — nearly 2,500 light years from Earth — and impossible to discern with the naked eye.

Scientists spotted and studied the Snowflake Cluster with help from two cameras, including one made by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the other by UA researchers. The special cameras read infrared light, or heat, allowing NASA to capture images of the clusters.

In the image, the Snowflake Cluster stars look like pink and red specks on the Christmas tree.

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