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Revisiting a cosmic cat's paw

The pawprint of a cosmic cat comes into sharper focus in this week's featured picture from the European Southern Observatory. This image of the Cat's Paw Nebula, released on Monday, combines data from the 2.2-meter MPG/ESO telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile with 60 hours of exposures from a 400mm telescope manned by expert amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Ryan M. Hannahoe.

ESO says the additional color information from the amateurs brings out the faint blue nebulosity at the center of the "paw," while the ESO imagery fleshes the picture out with more detail. "The result is an image that is much more than the sum of its parts," the ESO team says in an image advisory. The nebula lies in the constellation Scorpius, 5,500 light-years from Earth. The Cat's Paw is considered one of the most active star formation regions in our galaxy. Let's just hope some astronomical image enhancement engineer doesn't try to airbrush out the cat.

Where in the Cosmos

The Cat's Paw Nebula served as today's "Where in the Cosmos" picture puzzle on the Cosmic Log Facebook page. Every week, I've been posting a picture to the page and asking Cosmic Log followers to guess the cosmic location. This week, the first folks to identify the nebula were Bob Conway, Dave Smith and Neal Patel. To reward their sharp eyes, quick minds and fast typing fingers, all three are eligible to receive a pair of 3-D glasses, provided courtesy of Microsoft Research. Hit the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page and get ready for next week's "Where in the Cosmos" contest.

Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.