Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2010 April 21
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Wide Angle: The Cat's Paw Nebula
Credit: ESO, DSS2

Explanation: Nebulae are perhaps as famous for being identified with familiar shapes as perhaps cats are for getting into trouble. Still, no known cat could have created the vast Cat's Paw Nebula visible in Scorpius. At 5,500 light years distant, Cat's Paw is an emission nebula with a red color that originates from an abundance of ionized hydrogen atoms. Alternatively known as the Bear Claw Nebula or NGC 6334, stars nearly ten times the mass of our Sun have been born there in only the past few million years. Pictured above, a wide angle, deep field image of the Cat's Paw nebula was culled from the second Digitized Sky Survey.

Tomorrow's picture: open space

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