We’ve all spotted animal shapes in clouds. Well, the Cat’s Paw Nebula is the celestial equivalent.
Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory have just released one of the sharpest ever views of the feline feature, which can be seen in the top right corner of the image below. Once you’ve seen it, there’s no un-seeing it...
Around 5,500 light years from Earth, the nebula is a region of active star formation, with hot young stars causing the surrounding hydrogen to glow red.
But it’s not the only animal feature revealed by the image. Featuring two giant claws, the Lobster Nebula lights up the bottom left corner.
The full image, viewable here, comprises more than two billion pixels and is one of the largest ever released by ESO. It was captured by a 256-megapixel OmegaCAM at the ESO’s very large telescope in Chile.
It’s been a great week for space photography. On Tuesday, NASA revealed the sharpest ever images of Saturn’s rings, returned by its Cassini space probe.