The Cat's Paw Nebula, imaged here by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, is a star-forming region inside the Milky Way Galaxy and is located in the constellation Scorpius. Its distance from Earth is estimated to be between 1.3 kiloparsecs (about 4,200 light years) to 1.7 kiloparsecs (about 5,500 light years).
The image was taken as part of the Galactic Legacy Infrared Midplane Survey Extraordinaire (GLIMPSE), a survey of the Milky Way Galaxy. It was taken using Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera (IRAC). The colors correspond with wavelengths of 3.6 microns (blue), 4.5 microns (green), and 8 microns (red).
The bright, cloudlike band running left to right across the image shows the presence of gas and dust that can collapse to form new stars. The black filaments running through the nebula are particularly dense regions of gas and dust. The entire star-forming region is thought to be between 24 and 27 parsecs (80-90 light years) across. New stars may heat up the pressurized gas surrounding them causing the gas to expand and form "bubbles."
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
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