Stargazing Side Quest week 49 – Christmas Tree Cluster (NGC 2264)

Happy Wednesday and happy winter solstice everyone! For week 49 our Stargazing Side Quest is the Christmas Tree Cluster (NGC 2264) found in the constellation Monoceros!

Christmas Tree cluster screenshot from Stellarium (stellarium.org)

NGC 2264 (New General Catalogue) actually has two celestial objects: the Christmas Tree cluster and the Cone Nebula. Both are visible to the naked eye, but for festivities sake, we’ll be focusing on the Christmas Tree cluster – the sparkly region of young stars that’s just above the Cone Nebula.

To find this week’s Side Quest target, start by finding the Orion constellation. The bright reddish-orangeish star on Orion’s left shoulder is called Betelgeuse. From Betelgeuse look toward the Gemini constellation. Just below the left foot of the twin on the left is where you’ll find the Christmas Tree cluster (as well as the Cone Nebula).

Screenshot from Stellarium centering on the location of the Christmas Tree cluster with surrounding constellations (stellarium.org)

NGC 2264 is positioned right on the unicorn’s horn of the constellation Monoceros. This can be seen with the unaided eye, but if you have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope then it will be especially lovely to see!

Screenshot from Stellarium (stellarium.org) showing the location of the Christmas Tree cluster in the constellation Monoceros. The constellation art reveals the position of this week’s Side Quest target is right on the horn of the unicorn.

Check out this site to learn more about this week’s Stargazing Side Quest target.

Be sure to follow @stargazingsidequest on Instagram and tag #WUFO, @liminal.earth, and @stargazingsidequest with your sky pics and #WUFO setups so we can boost and celebrate your stargazing achievement this week!

See you next week for the last Stargazing Side Quest of 2022!

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