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Cat's Paw Nebula
Cat's Paw Nebula

Cat's Paw NebulaRevealing the footprint of a celestial feline stepping gingerly away from the stinger (S = Shaula) defining the end of arcing tail of Scorpius is NGC 6334, the Cat's Paw Nebula.

This fine sketch by Serge Vieillard from the Atacama Desert in Chile shows the fine details that can be viewed in very dark skies using H-Beta and OIII filters.

This is a fascinating object, as evidenced by Steve Gottlieb's notes from 2007 viewed in an 18" telescope: "The 'Cat's Paw Nebula' is a fascinating HII complex and molecular cloud (RCW 17) with several distinct sections. At 73x and OIII or UHC filter, the brightest section or toe is on the southeast side (NGC 6334 = Gum 62) and consists of a 4'-5' glow extending mostly north of a mag 8.5 star (HD 156738) at 17 20.9 -36 04 (2000). The nebulosity appears weaker on the SW side of the star and slightly brighter wrapping around the eastern side of the star. John Herschel only recorded this section of the entire RCW 127 complex.

"A second large section or toe forming the southwest component (VdBH 86 = Gum 61) lies 13' to the west and consists of a faint, 5' glow involving a 17" pair of mag 10.7 stars (HD 319703). This piece is asymmetric and appears as a broad fan sweeping N to SE from the central stars and appeared very weak or nonexistent to the SW of the stars.

"A group of smaller pieces forming the NE toe (Gum 64b) is 12'-15' N of the brighter SE section. An obvious 2' glow surrounds a mag 10 star (HD 319702 at 17 20.8 -35 52. A small, faint knot of nebulosity lies 3' W, no more than 1' in diameter. This knot is also situated 2' SSE of a mag 9.5 star that is free of nebulosity. But to the NW of this star another few arc minutes is a third detached piece of nebulosity (brightest part of Gum 64c), ~2' in diameter. Very weak nebulosity appears to connect the NE section (Gum 64b) with the SE section (Gum 62).

"Finally, midway between Gum 64b and Gum 61, a small extremely faint detached glow (Gum 64a) was glimpsed close SE of a mag 11 star at 17 20.1 -35 57."

Many of these features are visible in this photo by Robert Monaghan from Australia:

Cat's Paw Nebula

While Steve's 18" observation contains a wealth of detail, the object is visible through smaller aperture.

The Cat's Paw emission nebula (NGC 6334) is found at RA 17 20 53 and Declination -36 04 21, covering an area of 40'x30', shining from 5,500 light years.

Date Taken: 06/01/2023
Author: Mark Wagner
Category: Weekly

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