All cat lovers are familiar with toe beans, the little jellies that adorn the bottom your fur baby's paws. If you, like me, love kitties and space — ideally kitties in space — you're guaranteed to geek out over the latest image from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which captures the Cat's Paw Nebula like never before. Those galactic toe beans are unmistakable!
The image also shows the Lobster Nebula (lower left), located in the constellation of Scorpius, like the Cat's Paw (upper right). While it's not as cuddly as its cosmic neighbour, the Lobster Nebula certainly lives up to its namesake with its unique shape. The lobster's "claw" and the cat's "paw" are active star-forming regions, where stellar birth and fusion produces vast clouds of hydrogen gas, mixed with other elements like helium, carbon and oxygen.
The darker areas that can be seen in the photo are mostly cosmic dust, mixed with molecules like carbon monoxide.
Here's the incredible image in full:
"These objects have been photographed a lot already, but this new picture from the VLT Survey Telescope is both very sharp, because of the good conditions at Paranal in Chile and the good image quality of the telescope," Richard Hook, public information officer at the ESO, told Gizmodo. "It was also taken using a special filter that brings out the faint glow of the hydrogen gas, which appears red here. So it is probably the best view of the two nebulae together that we have."
While it's tempting for cat enthusiasts — and lobster fans — to want to jet off to these nebulae, please note that they're 5500 and 8000 lightyears away, respectively. Just enjoy the kitties (and lobsters) here on Earth.