This image was produced with exposures taken between October 26- November 8, 2008 through a RCOS 20- inch telescope and a SBIG STL-11000 camera.

Exposure times: 3,105 minutes Luminance, 480 minutes Red, 360 minutes Green and 540 minutes Blue (All 1X1)

The Christmas Tree Cluster, Fox Fur Nebula and Cone Nebula in Monoceros (NGC 2264)

A six panel mosaic

  • Click here for the Fox Fur Nebula (detail)
  • Click here for the Cone Nebula (detail)
  • Click here for a description

  • Being a Ghost Story of Christmas

    Since Gutenberg's invention, millions of books have been published. Most are luxuries that add to a library already filled with good reading material but only a handful can be regarded as essential, compelling, necessary or must-reads. There are scores of favorites which enlarge our world view, deepen our understanding of the human heart, entertain through clever plots or intrigue with thoughtful prose. But there are scant few that universally embody the truth and when considering the truth, cause us to immediately recall the story. King Midas, the Grasshopper and the Ant represent two while others, like the Prodigal Son and Cain and Able, occupy the pages of scripture or, Prometheus, for example, lives in the lore of myth.

    Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is one of these stories, too.

    Self published by the author on December 18, 1843, within six days it has sold over 6,000 copies (which were subsequently pirated so that its initial distribution extended far beyond this number). It's a wildly imaginative narrative that celebrates Christmas in a most un-Christmas-like manner by summoning three ghosts who advocate for universal charity. Within its pages we watch as the main protagonist, a man of wealth who does not know how to enjoy the benefits of his accumulated treasure, learns to shed his avarice, share his good fortune and to have fun while doing it.

    More than just a morality lesson, A Christmas Carol celebrates the joys of merriment, of bringing happiness to others and making otherwise common moments memorable. Scrooge's final triumph unfolds when he stares into his own grave and, instead of despairing, vows to live the remainder of his life to the fullest. By watching his transformation, we recognize our heart is likewise cold and thus, the three spirits of this timeless tale help emancipate us, too.

    I have found that compassion, generosity and selfless giving, entreated so effectively by Dickens' short novella, thrives within the ever growing global community of astrophotographers, not just during the year-end Holiday Season, but all year-round! They are an all-volunteer group of explorers who pluck stars from the heavens with cameras and telescopes, coax the truth out of shadows and offer encouragement to others without expectation of reciprocation. This is the heart of A Christmas Carol's message and this great gathering knows how to keep the spirit of Christmas well, if any group or assembly ever possessed the knowledge!

    To this throng I wish Good Cheer and hope that you have a Dickens' of a Christmas both this Holiday Season and throughout the year!

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