NASA spacecraft are beaming home some festive photographic treats, just in time for the holidays.

One shot, taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), captures a star-forming nebula that resembles a Christmas wreath. If you squint a little, the nebula's red dust cloud could be a bow, and the bluish-white stars look like silver bells.

The nebula is called Barnard 3, and it's found in the Perseus constellation. The star in the center of the red cloud, known as HD 278942, is so bright that it's lighting up most of the surrounding clouds. The red cloud is probably composed of dust that's cooler and more metallic than the material in surrounding regions, researchers said.

The different colors in the WISE image represent different wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and blue-green represent wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, both of which come chiefly from stars. Green and red denote light from 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which are mostly emitted by dust, researchers said.

WISE launched in December 2009 on a mission to survey the sky in infrared light. The telescope shut down in February of this year, after taking about 1.8 million images of cosmic objects and discovering more than 33,000 new asteroids. Researchers are still sifting through the huge amounts of data WISE collected during its observational life.                 –MNN