Stellar Snowflake Cluster


Dec. 23, 2019

Stellar Snowflake Cluster

Newborn stars, hidden behind thick dust, are revealed in this image of a section of the so-called Christmas Tree Cluster from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The newly revealed infant stars appear as pink and red specks toward the center and appear to have formed in regularly spaced intervals along linear structures in a configuration that resembles the spokes of a wheel or the pattern of a snowflake. Hence, astronomers have nicknamed this the “Snowflake Cluster.”
Star-forming clouds like this one are dynamic and evolving structures. Since the stars trace the straight line pattern of spokes of a wheel, scientists believe that these are newborn stars, or “protostars.” At a mere 100,000 years old, these infant structures have yet to “crawl” away from their location of birth. Over time, the natural drifting motions of each star will break this order, and the snowflake design will be no more.
While most of the visible-light stars that give the Christmas Tree Cluster its name and triangular shape do not shine brightly in Spitzer’s infrared eyes, all of the stars forming from this dusty cloud are considered part of the cluster.
Like a dusty cosmic finger pointing up to the newborn clusters, Spitzer also illuminates the optically dark and dense Cone Nebula, the tip of which can be seen towards the bottom left corner of the image.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/P.S. Teixeira (Center for Astrophysics)

Last Updated: Dec. 23, 2019

Editor: NASA Administrator

23 thoughts on “Stellar Snowflake Cluster

    • The Total Perspective Vortex is allegedly the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected.

      When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it there’s a tiny little speck, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, “You are here.”

      … In an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion. link

    • Maybe. We have only made limited, close observation at the edge of our solar system. The universe is inferred (“created”) from signals of assumed/asserted fidelity and beliefs about their sources. With extraordinary skill improvement, we may one day learn if this knowledge is an accurate characterization of these processes and systems. In the meantime, science has evolved as the art of the plausible and pretty pictures.

    • It looks more like a grizzly bear lying on its back while metamorphosing into a polar bear. Who is in charge of naming these things? Just what kind of name did they give their dog, Matilda or something even the dog would be embarrassed by?

      Smile, be happy, and enjoy Christmas!

  1. Beauty beyond ones imagination. Just think folks, this has been hidden from our eyes, until now. It inspires, awe.

    And, Merry Christmas, to all!

  2. “Since the stars trace the straight line pattern of spokes on a wheel, scientists believe these are newborn stars, or ‘proto-stars.'”

    First, I don’t see this pattern in the photograph. The ones that do appear to follow a pattern follow curved lines for the most part.

    Second, I don’t follow the logic of the above quote. How would stars in this pattern imply they are newborn?

    Maybe these scientists have indulged in too much Christmas spirits?

  3. “Deep in unfathomable mines. Of never failing skill. He treasures up His bright designs. And works His sov’reign will.”

    A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All at WUWT!

  4. I see an angel clutching a sphere.

    “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.…”

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