On Little Cat's Feet: VISTA Captures the Cat's Paw Nebula
Your dose of space for today comes courtesy of the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, nicknamed VISTA, housed in Chile, that recently kicked off a series of wide-ranging surveys of the southern skies. It’s a stunning new image of the so-called “Cat’s Paw” Nebula (NGC 6334). A clear glimpse of this massive stellar nursery is rare because of all the dust clouds and gas — the very things that give the nebula its unique cat’s paw appearance when viewed solely under visible, but also serve to scatter and absorb visible light.
Ah, but VISTA works with both visible and infrared light, and the latter can pierce through all that dust and gas to let us peek at what’s obscured behind it: namely, the birth of young stars and their subsequent early development, and even slightly older stars taking their first steps after nuclear fusion kicks in.