The Christmas Tree in Space

Here’s a holiday treat from outer space: The Christmas Tree Cluster!

Imagine the beautiful green, wispy branches of a Christmas tree — adorned with red, blue and white lights — gracefully on display in the heavens above.

The Christmas Tree Cluster
The Christmas Tree Cluster (a.k.a. “NGC 2264”) is located in the constellation Monoceros, near the Name A Star Live constellations Orion and Gemini.

Newborn stars, hidden behind thick dust, are revealed in this image of a section of the Christmas Tree Cluster from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. 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.

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 upper right corner of the image.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/P.S. Teixeira (Center for Astrophysics)

And here’s some other neat space imagery for you!

ESO Observatory
An outstanding image of the sky over European  Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory.  Image Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (

The object that is glowing intensely red in the image is the Carina Nebula.  The Carina Nebula lies in the constellation of Carina (The Keel), about 7500 light-years from Earth. This cloud of glowing gas and dust is the brightest nebula in the sky and contains several of the brightest and most massive stars known in the Milky Way, such as Eta Carinae. The Carina Nebula is a perfect test-bed for astronomers to unveil the mysteries of the violent birth and death of massive stars.  Click here for more information about this image.

Finally, here is a beautiful video — set to equally beautiful music — showing the night skies over Cornwall and Scilly, in Great Britain.

Name a star for that special someone this Christmas!
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Top Ten Star Certificate Messages

Mystic MountainWhen you name a star with Name A Star Live, you get a letter-size Star Certificate that displays the name of your star, the star’s astronomical coordinates, and a personal message for your gift recipient.  It’s a wonderful gift idea for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, a birthday, anniversary, graduation or any occasion!

Here are just some of the personal messages our customers included on their Star Certificates last week:

  1. My love there are not enough stars in the sky to shine down upon you and reflect the love I have for you..
  2. Grandma and Grandpa love you so much.  Happy 1st Birthday  Hugs and Kisses to our angel
  3. Your leadership.compassion and commitment has inspired others to dream more, learn more, care more and become more. You will be greatly missed!
  4. This star was named for you, to honor my favorite shining star. I love you!!!!
  5. Happy Birthday Dad!  You are a shining star among men….
  6. This is our Deployment star, everytime your missing me and lonely just look up and we will both be looking at the same thing. I love you.
  7. I thought it would be cool for you to have your “own piece of the universe”
  8. Forever flying through space lighting up the heavens.
  9. Congratulations on your marriage.  May your star shine forever.
  10. … Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to our year.  Your Star will always be a part of our Family.


Top Ten Holiday Messages

Christmas ornamentsAs you’re thinking about what to get your friends and loved ones for Christmas and/or Hanukkah, you might be interested in some of the holiday messages Name A Star Live customers have included on their Star Certificates in recent weeks.  Below are just some of the many holiday messages so far from the 2011 season.  (Of course, we’ve changed the names in the messages to protect the privacy of our customers.)

  1. Merry Christmas 2011. Our love is as boundless as the stars.
  2. Christmas comes but once a year, but now you always have this star to bring you great cheer. Whenever you look up at the sky remember this star and let it symbolize what will last forever.
  3. Merry Christmas! Thank you for being the most amazing dad all year round. I hope every time you look up at this star you are constantly reminded of how much we love you and care for you!
  4. The best yuletide decoration is the twinkles from above on a clear moonlit night. Merry Christmas!
  5. God gave His greatest Gift in Baby Jesus on that first Christmas night.  May the wonder and promise of Jesus always guide and light your way.
  6. Merry Christmas Princess.  Watch your star sparkle in the sky!  Love you xx
  7. Dearest Jane,    We named this star after you to celebrate your first winter solstice, Chanukah, and Christmas.  Your beautiful smile is as bright as a star.  We love you endlessly.
  8. Merry Christmas Alfred. Wishing you have many fun nights star gazing and dreaming
  9. A new star named Henry will be shining bright  From Christmas Day then to be seen every night
  10. Happy Christmas  May your star always be watching over you

Name a star for the holidays!

Top Ten Star Messages

Each Name A Star Live Gift Set includes a letter-size star certificate that displays the name of the star, astronomical information about the star, and an area where you can include a breif personal message for your gift recipient.

Here are some notable messages our customers wrote in September:

  1. You are the sweetest, cutest thing in the universe.
  2. A girl with your beauty needs to have a place in this world forever.  Inside and out you’re beautiful.  I love you.
  3. May your life always shine as brightly as your star.  Happy 50th!
  4. You truly are the best guy for me. I know that you could not love me any better. You always surprise me with how sweet you are and I am so lucky to have someone like that in my life.
  5. Know that wherever you go, wherever you are,  Daddy’s Guiding Light will be there to lead you.
  6. These stars symbolize our everlasting love. They will be together forever and always, and just like our love; never faltering, and always true.
  7. We’ve named a star for your Mother.  “Perhaps they are not stars in the sky,  but rather openings where our loved ones   shine down to let us know they are happy.”
  8. To my niece on her baptism, I love you til all the stars burn out!
  9. Now even when we are apart I can look to the stars and be with you. May it shine just like its namesake.
  10. “It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”  – W.T. Ellis

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