'Wreath Nebula:' Barnard 3 Image From NASA Telescope Brings Holiday Cheer (PHOTOS)

LOOK: A Christmas Present From Space

Here's a Christmas present from 1,000 light years away.

Just in time for the holidays, NASA has released a new image from its WISE space telescope of a nebula that, with a little bit of imagination, could resemble a holiday wreath.


While the nebula's official name is Barnard 3, or IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5, the folks at NASA have dubbed it the "Wreath Nebula" because, in the words of the space agency, "one might picture a wreath in these bright green and red dust clouds -- a ring of evergreens donned with a festive red bow, a jaunty sprig of holly, and silver bells throughout."

But that would have to be a big bow. After all, according to the WISE mission's office, the diameter of the ring measures 22 light years.

The green ring is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The red cloud in the center is most likely made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. HD 278942, the bright star in the middle of the red cloud, is so luminous that it is the likely cause of the surrounding ring's glow.

NASA's WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) space telescope was launched in 2009 to map the entire celestial sky. After successfully mapping the sky at least one-and-a-half times, WISE was put into hibernation on February 2011, according to Space.com.

Want to see and learn about more nebulae? Click here to learn about the so-called "Angry Bird Nebula," and click here to see an asteroid "marching" across the Tadpole nebula.

Click through the slideshow below to see the "wreath nebula" and more amazing space pictures:

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