A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cats in Space: Cat’s Paw and Cat’s Eye Nebulas

People name all sorts of things after cats, and not all of those things are on Earth. At least two of those things are way out in space: the Cat’s Paw and Cat’s Eye Nebulas.

The Lobster Nebula and Cat's Paw Nebula. Image credit: ESO
This image from the ESO’s Very Large Telescope Survey
Telescope shows the Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC 6334) in the
upper right and the Lobster Nebula (NGC 6357) in the lower left.
Image credit: ESO.

Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC6334)

Chart of constellation Scorpius, showing location of Lobster and Cat's Paw Nebulas. Image credit: ESO/IAU and Sky & Telescope
Chart showing the constellation Scorpius,
with the Cat’s Paw and
Lobster Nebulas indicated with red circles.
Image credit: ESO/IAU and Sky & Telescope.
The Cat’s Paw Nebula is something called an emission nebula (basically, a big cloud of ionized gas that emits light). It is in the constellation Scorpius, near the tip of the tail. This nebula is 50 light-years across, and is about 5,500 light-years from Earth. It is what they call a “stellar nursery”—an area of active star formation. The Cat’s Paw Nebula could have tens of thousands of stars in it. The “toe beans” are actually gas being lit up by the newborn stars. Perhaps not as cute as your cat’s toe beans, but still pretty impressive!

This nebula was first spotted by British scientist John Herschel in June 1837. He didn’t call it the Cat’s Paw Nebula though, partially because the telescope he was using wasn’t powerful enough to show the full shape.

The Cat’s Paw Nebula came to my attention last week, when  the European Southern Observatory released a new, very large image of it. When I say large, I mean 2 billion pixels. That will not quite fit on this blog!

(By the way... don't tell the astronomers, but old SoLT thinks this nebula looks more like a mouse than a cat's paw. Go figure.)

Cat’s Eye Nebula

The Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Draco. It is 3,300 light-years from Earth and was discovered by William Herschel in 1786. He called it a planetary nebula because it looked like a planet, but actually it is a shell of ionized gas ejected from an old star. The Cat’s Eye Nebula is one of the most structurally complex nebulas known. It is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium.

The Cat’s Eye Nebula, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA/ESA, public domain
The Cat’s Eye Nebula, as seen by the
Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA/ESA, public domain, via WikimediaCommons.

You may be at least a little bit familiar with the Cat’s Eye Nebula from the spectacular images taken of it by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Watch this space

These two nebulas are not the only things out in space that have something to do with cats, so watch this space (pun intended; sorry, but old SoLT made me do it) for more cats in space!


  1. I guess cats really are everywhere. :) Great pictures.

  2. we se the paw and the lobster. Mom also sees the mouse!