NGC 2264 - The Christmas Tree Cluster and Cone Nebula


Copyright 2008 Frank Hinson

NGC2264 is a loose cluster of some 600 relatively young stars forming an asterism known as the Christmas Tree cluster.  In this composition, the tree is lying on its side with the base of it being the bright star near the left of the image and the top of the Christmas tree being the bright star just to the left of the cone shaped region at the right.  Not surprisingly, this region is called the Cone Nebula.  The entire region is awash with interstellar hydrogen, glowing red, and dark dust.  The lack of stars along the upper side of the image is caused by intervening nearly black dust that is blocking our view of the stars beyond.  

The bright star at the left that illuminates and dominates the region is S-Monocerotis, a supergiant with a luminosity some 8000 times that of our sun.

NGC 2264 lies at a distance of 2600 light years.

Date/Location:    January 12, 2008     Foster/Hinson Observatory    Bethune, SC
Instrument:    Canon 350D (modified IR filtering) Digital SLR through 8" F/3.9 Vixen Newtonian 
Focal Ratio:   F/3.9
Guiding:    None
Conditions:    Visually clear
Exposure: 417 minutes total @ ISO 800
Filters:    Baader UV/IR block
Processing:    Focused and captured with DSLRFocus.  RAW to TIFF conversion, auto-dark and flat frame calibration, Digital Development, resizing and JPEG conversion in ImagesPlus.  Color correction in Photoshop 6.