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Photo via European Southern Observatory

Nebula in the shape of cat ‘toe beans’ photographed by ESO

Now all of the space cat memes are scientific.


Audrey Browning

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 1, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 2:16 am CDT

Everyone knows one of the cutest parts of a cat’s anatomy are the little squishy toe beans on their paws. In addition to being adorable, they’re now interstellar.

The European Southern Observatory captured a shot of NGC 6334, a nebula in the shape of a cat’s paw and have fittingly dubbed it the Cat’s Paw Nebula. A single toe bean was spotted by British scientist John Herschel in 1837 and now ESO’s Very Large Telescope makes it possible to see all three.

Visible in the bottom left of the photograph is the nebula known as the Lobster Nebula, and the Cat’s Paw is in the top right. Both are a part of the Scorpius constellation, near the tip of the “tail.”

Though this isn’t the first time the nebulae have been photographed, these new images are the largest and most detailed of them to date.

This shot was captured by a 256-megapixel OmegaCAM and is one of the largest images ever released by the ESO, coming in at a whopping 49511 x 39136 pixels. (For scale: the downloadable JPEG image is over 5 gigabytes. That’s roughly four movies’ worth of data.) However, ESO stated there is still more to the kitty nebula that the cameras cannot see.

“Despite the cutting-edge instruments used to observe these phenomena, the dust in these nebulae is so thick that much of their content remains hidden to us,” ESO stated in a post. “The Cat’s Paw Nebula is one of the most active stellar nurseries in the night sky, nurturing thousands of young, hot stars whose visible light is unable to reach us.”

H/T Gizmodo

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*First Published: Feb 1, 2017, 12:34 pm CST