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Flaming Tree Nebula

Christmas Tree Nebula, Flame Nebula, Tank Track Nebula, NGC 2024

Proper NamesFlaming Tree Nebula, Christmas Tree Nebula, Flame Nebula, Tank Track Nebula
Messier NumberNone
NGC/IC NumberNGC 2024
Right Ascension5h 41m 43s
Declination-1° 50' 30"
Distancec.1,200 light years
c.370 parsecs
MagnitudeApparent: +10.0
Absolute: +3.0
Mean DiameterApparent: 30°
Actual: c.7 light years
Optimum VisibilityDecember / January
NotesThis nebula is a part of the extensive Orion Molecular Cloud, one of several areas of that otherwise dark cloud illuminated by the bright blue star Alnitak. The golden-pink background of the nebula reveals a tracery of dark lanes of material, from which it takes its various common names.

A close view of the central structure of the Flaming Tree Nebula with its branching dark dustlanes. The brilliant star to the southwest (lower right) of this image is Alnitak, the eastern star of the three that make up Orion's Belt. Imagery provided by Aladin sky atlas

The Flaming Tree of Orion

Dark lanes against a swirling background give the Flaming Tree its name. In the foreground is the blue-white star Alnitak of Orion's Belt, actually some two hundred light years closer to Earth than the nebula behind it.

At the eastern end of Orion's Belt is a gaseous region filled with nebulae. Most famous of these by far is the Horsehead Nebula, but the nearby Flaming Tree is nearly as recognisable. Illuminated by the star Alnitak, the eastern of the three stars of the Belt, the Nebula is patterned by dark dust-lanes that branch out from one another much like the boughs of a burning tree.


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