Munich, January 24 (ANI): The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has recently released a stunning new image of the vast cloud known as the 'Cat's Paw Nebula', which is a complex region of gas and dust near the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, where numerous massive stars are born.
Few objects in the sky have been as well named as the Cat's Paw Nebula, or NGC 6334, a glowing gas cloud resembling the gigantic pawprint of a celestial cat.
NGC 6334 lies about 5500 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion) and covers an area on the sky slightly larger than the full Moon.
British astronomer John Herschel first recorded NGC 6334 in 1837 during his stay in South Africa.
Despite using one of the largest telescopes in the world at the time, Herschel seems to have only noted the brightest part of the cloud, seen here towards the lower left.
The whole gas cloud is about 50 light-years across.
The nebula appears red because its blue and green light are scattered and absorbed more efficiently by material between the nebula and Earth.
The red light comes predominantly from hydrogen gas glowing under the intense glare of hot young stars.
NGC 6334 is one of the most active nurseries of massive stars in our galaxy and has been extensively studied by astronomers.
The nebula conceals freshly minted brilliant blue stars - each nearly ten times the mass of our Sun and born in the last few million years.
The region is also home to many baby stars that are buried deep in the dust, making them difficult to study.
In total, the Cat's Paw Nebula could contain several tens of thousands of stars.
Particularly striking is the red, intricate bubble in the lower right part of the image.
This is most likely either a star expelling large amount of matter at high speed as it nears the end of its life or the remnant of a star that already has exploded. (ANI)