Weekend Sky Report / Christmas Tree Cluster
January 04, 2019
You’ll need a telescope to see this weekend’s festively-named target.
If you’re like me, your Christmas tree is still up. Not because I keep it up until the Feast of The Epiphany, which is this Sunday. I wish my reason was as respectable as that… No, I’m just a little work-shy… indolent… lazy.
OR I could say that I won’t take it down until I find the Christmas Tree Cluster. A small, distant star cluster between the constellations Gemini, and Orion.
The Christmas Tree Cluster is the more luminous part of a larger area designated as NGC 2264. This area also includes the Cone Nebula, Snowflake Cluster, and the Fox Fur Nebula. But most home telescopes will only be able to see the Christmas Tree Cluster.
At 2300 light years away, the cluster resembles an upside-down Christmas tree with the brightest star representing the base of the tree. The other stars form a loose cone shape that makes it look like Christmas tree lights.
To find it, look to the East after 8pm. If you have a good view of the Eastern horizon, you’ll notice the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor. Trace a line between bright white Procyon and bright orange Betelgeuse, the right shoulder of Orion. Find the center of that line and scan upward with your telescope until you see a small cluster of brilliant blueish stars. That’s it. The Christmas Tree Cluster.
When you find it, you’ll be looking at not only the cluster itself, but also the nebula where it formed. If you have a big enough telescope and are under clear, dark, rural skies, you’ll see some of that surrounding nebulosity.
And then… get back inside and take your Christmas Tree down. I’ll be right there with you.
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Apr 10, 2020
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Apr 03, 2020
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Mar 27, 2020
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Mar 13, 2020
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Feb 28, 2020
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Feb 21, 2020
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Feb 14, 2020
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Feb 07, 2020
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Jan 31, 2020
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Jan 24, 2020
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Jan 17, 2020
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