Newborn stars create bubbles in the Cat’s Paw Nebula

NASA / JPL-Caltech

It is located in the Milky Way and is between 4,200 and 5,500 light years from Earth.

An image of the Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC 6334) obtained using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows gigantic bubbles in the star-forming region, the space agency said in a statement on Tuesday. The Cat’s Paw Nebula is named for the characteristics that create the impression of a feline footprint.

The image was produced using data from the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) and Multi-Band Imaging Photometer (MIPS) onboard Spitzer.

MIPS collects an additional ‘color’ of light in the infrared range, revealing the red color characteristics, created by dust that has been heated by hot gas and light from nearby stars.

Framed by green clouds, bright red bubbles are the dominant feature in the image. After the gas and dust within the nebula collapse to form stars, the stars in turn can heat up the pressurized gas that surrounds them, causing it to expand into space and create bubbles.

The black filaments that run horizontally through the nebula are regions of dense gas and dust, through which infrared light from the telescope cannot pass. These dense regions may soon be sites for another generation of stars to form, the agency reports.

NGC 6334 is located in the Milky Way, in the constellation Scorpio. The nebula is at a distance of between 4,200 and 5,500 light years from Earth and its diameter is estimated to be 24-27 parsecs (80-90 light years).