Two billion pixels is a lot of pixels, but that's about how many are in an image of the Cat's Paw Nebula and Lobster Nebula released Wednesday by the European Southern Observatory. The picturesque portrait comes from the ESO's Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope and its 256-megapixel camera, located in Chile.
The Cat's Paw, so named for its distinctive feline-like toe pads, is officially known as NGC 6334 and located 5,500 light-years from Earth. The Lobster Nebula, NGC 6357, resembles a lobster's large pincer claw and takes up residence about 8,000 light-years away. The paw and claw features are made up mainly of hydrogen gas, which the ESO notes is "energised by the light of brilliant newborn stars."
While this image gives scientists and space fans alike lots to ponder, there's still plenty of mystery surrounding the interiors of the nebulae. "The Cat's Paw Nebula is one of the most active stellar nurseries in the night sky, nurturing thousands of young, hot stars whose visible light is unable to reach us," the ESO says.
The ESO offers a zoomable version of the full image so you can spend some quality time getting lost in the stars and nebulae. Close in on the "foot pads" of the Cat's Paw and you'll see some incredible details in the fiery-looking formations.
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