28 April 2010

On Little Cat Feet

I prefer dogs to cats.  I smile when looking up at Orion in the winter, seeing playful Canis Major in pursuit and Sirius, the Dog Star, shining with its blue-white intensity.  But the European Southern Observatory might change my mind with its recent observation of a cool, cosmic feline.

The ESO's Paranal Observatory, situated in Chile's Atacama desert, just released an infrared picture (on the right) of the Cat's Paw Nebula, a vast stellar nursery 5,500 light-years distant in the constellation Scorpius. 

The picture on the left is for comparison.  It shows the same nebula in visible light.  Because infrared light can pass through obscuring dust, the infrared picture reveals a multitude of new stars within the nebula itself.  And it also allows the "paw" to stand out more clearly.  There's no better time to quote Carl Sandburg's 1916 poem "The Fog":

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over the harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Picture Credit: ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA

4 comments:

  1. I do hope you change your mind because as lovely as dogs are they are no cats...I like these paws, my kitties have lovely smooth paws just like those.

    : )

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  2. I have to be careful mentioning cats. My dog Hubble, a bearded collie, is right here by my side in my office as I type this, and he might get jealous. : )

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  3. Wonderful story and very appropriate poem. Great comparison on the two photos. Thanks for pointing that out.

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