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Cat’s Paw Nebula

Bear Claw Nebula, Gum 61-64, NGC 6334

Proper NamesCat's Paw Nebula, Bear Claw Nebula
Messier NumberNone
NGC/IC NumberNGC 6334
Other DesignationsGum 61-64 (referring to separate lobes within the nebula)
Right Ascension17h 20m 51s
Declination-36° 6' 54"
Distancec.3,700 light years
c.1,100 parsecs
MagnitudeApparent: +10.00
Absolute: +3.01
DimensionsApparent: 40' x 30'
Actual: 9.5 light years
Optimum VisibilityJune / July

A broad nebulous region spanning more than three hundred light years within a dense part of the Milky Way as it passes through the tail of Scorpius the Scorpion. The dust and gases within the nebula have formed a series of connected star-forming regions, which together give the impression of the Cat's Paw (or Bear Claw) from which the nebula takes its common name. Within the denser areas of the nebula, massive stars are in the process of being formed in a burst of activity that appears to rapid and recent, at least on cosmic timescales.

Imagery provided by Aladin sky atlas

The Cat's Paw Nebula is associated with the Carina-Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, but its distance from the Sun is hard to calculate with certainty. Estimates vary from about 850 light years at the closest to 5,500 light years or more at the other extreme. More recent estimates place the nebula at a distance of perhaps 3,700 light years, but still within a considerable margin for error.


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