Just in time for the holidays, astronomers have come across a new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, that some say resembles a wreath. You might even think of the red dust cloud as a cheery red bow, and the bluish-white stars as silver bells. This star-forming nebula is named Barnard 3. Baby stars are being born throughout the dusty region, while the "silver bell" stars are located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.
The bright star in the middle of the red cloud, called HD 278942, is so luminous that it is likely causing most of the surrounding clouds to glow. The red cloud is probably made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. The yellow-green region poking into the picture from the left like a sprig of holly is similar to the rest of the green "wreath" material, only more dense.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages and operates the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.