This is the Rosette Nebula, a celestial wreath 5,000 light years in the northern winter sky.
It is one of the most photogenic of nebulas, but is barely visible to even an aided eye as a ghostly grey arc of light around the central star cluster. Winds from the group of hot stars at the centre of the Rosette are blowing a hole in the cloud, creating the wreath-like shape of the Rosette.
While I shot this earlier this month from Australia, the Rosette lies far enough north in the constellation of Monoceros that northerners can see this cosmic wreath on any dark and clear winter night. It makes a beautiful decoration in our holiday sky.
Happy holidays to all!
– Alan, December 26, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer