The biggest Christmas wreath in the universe?
Wednesday, December 25, 2013, 11:28 AM -
You might call it the biggest Christmas wreath in the observable universe.
NASA released this image of Barnard 3, also known as IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5, although in the spirit of the season, they dropped the nerd-speak and called it by the more fanciful "Wreath Nebula."
The green is made up of tiny dust particles, similar to smog on earth. The red "bow" in the middle is made of cooler, more metallic dust.
NASA says that bright star in the centre, HD 278942, is probably what's illuminating the nebula.
Appropriately, nebulae like these are known as "Stellar nurseries," since they are the birthplace of many kinds of stars.
The Wreath Nebula is around 1,000 light years away, still within the Milky Way galaxy.
Like most images released by NASA, individual colours represent different wavelengths of light, rather than necessarily how it would appear to the naked eye.
This shot was taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.