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.

December 7, 1999
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The Cat's Paw Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Jason Ware

Explanation: As soon as we find out whose cat did this . . . Nebulae are as famous for being identified with familiar shapes as perhaps cats are for getting into trouble. No cat, though, could have created the vast Cat's Paw Nebula visible in Scorpius. The Cat's Paw Nebula is the glowing red nebula near the top of the above picture -- the lower nebula is NGC 6357. At 5500 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.

Tomorrow's picture: Moon Struck

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