The Cat’s Paw

Cat'sPawThis is the Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC 6334), a vast region of star formation. This composite image was created from data taken with the Wide Field Imager instrument at the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, combining images taken through blue, green and red filters, as well as a special filter designed to let through the light of glowing hydrogen. The Cat’s Paw is about 5500 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius. The cloud is about 50 light-years across.

NGC 6334 is one of the most active nurseries of massive stars in our galaxy. Hidden in the nebula are young brilliant blue stars; young for a star means only a few million years old. The Cat’s Paw Nebula probably contains several tens of thousands of stars. The nebula appears red because its blue and green light is scattered and absorbed more efficiently by material between the nebula and Earth. Its red light mostly comes from hydrogen gas glowing under intense radiation from the hot young stars.

Image Credit: ESO

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