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.
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 showing the constellation Scorpius,
with the Cat’s Paw and
Lobster Nebulas indicated with red circles.
Image credit: ESO/IAU and Sky & Telescope.
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, 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.