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You need to see this incredible ESO image of the Cat's Paw and Lobster Nebula

You need to see this incredible ESO image of the Cat's Paw and Lobster Nebula

The European Southern Observatory in Germany has captured the Cat’s Paw and Lobster Nebula in incredible detail and you will definitely want to see the image in all its two billion-pixel glory.

The photo, taken by ESO’s Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope, measures a whopping 49,511 x 39,136 pixels (the file would take up 5.4GB on your hard drive), making it one of the largest ever released by the observatory.

Astronomers have for a long time studied the glowing, cosmic clouds of gas and dust catalogued as NGC 6334 (Cat’s Paw) and NGC 6357 (Lobster) which are located 5,500 and 8,000 light-years from Earth, respectively.

Cat's Paw Nebula and the Lobster Nebula.
Highlights from the Cat’s Paw and Lobster Nebula (Eso)

The objects were first observed by British astronomer John Herschel in 1837, who could only see the brightest “toepad” of the Cat’s Paw.

It took several decades for the technical equipment to improve, allowing astronomers to more clearly define their shape.

ESO’s image was captured using a 256-megapixel OmegaCAM installed on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope on La Silla.

The nebula clouds are made mostly of hydrogen gas and dust surrounding stars that are several times bigger than the Sun.

Cat's Paw Nebula and the Lobster Nebula.
Cat’s Paw, upper right, and Lobster, lower left (Eso)

Their glowing appearance is a result of the stars emitting a lot of ultraviolet light which is absorbed by the hydrogen gas and then re-emitted as deep red light.

ESO say: “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.

“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.

“However, by observing at infrared wavelengths, telescopes such as ESO’s VISTA can peer through the dust and reveal the star formation activity within.

“Viewing nebulae in different wavelengths (colours) of light gives rise to different visual comparisons on the part of human observers.

“When seen in longer wavelength infrared light, for example, one portion of NGC 6357 resembles a dove, and the other a skull; it has therefore acquired the additional name of the War and Peace Nebula.”

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