Stuck in the Lagoon's quagmire

By Phil Plait | October 16, 2010 7:18 am

The Lagoon Nebula is one of the more famous objects in the sky. It’s a big, bright gas cloud easily spotted using binoculars in the constellation of Sagittarius, and through a telescope reveals quite a bit of detail. I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times, observing in the summer when Sagittarius is up. You can even see it in a picture I took a few weeks ago (if you’re really curious, scroll to the bottom, click the pic of Sagittarius, and then look off to the right of center; the compact fuzzy pink thing is the Lagoon).

So when you take something big, bright, and close, and point Hubble at it, the detail is pretty spectacular:


As you might expect, I could go on and on about what you’re seeing here: dense clouds of gas and dust, star forming regions, shock waves, and the like. Instead, though, I’ll direct you to the four bumps, like a wave going across the nebula from left to right and downsloping a bit. Take a look at that third one from the left. Does it look familiar…?

[Punch line after the jump… don’t wanna rue-een it…]


Oh yeah! Giggity giggity lagoon!

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about because you are even older than I am, then just assume it’s really Bob Hope. Or Nixon. Or given that eyebrow ridge, Neanderthal Nixon.

I’ll stick with Quagmire, though. But not too close. Because, y’know. Ewww.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Geekery, Humor, TV/Movies

Comments (48)

  1. Hiro

    “911? It’s Quagmire. Yeah, it’s stuck in a nebula this time.”

  3. firemancarl

    Heh-heh! Awww right!

  4. Shawn

    I don’t see it. I see Pluto.

    It’s almost as if we see what we want to see. Someone should come up with a name for this new phenomenom.

  5. Tensor

    Hey, I resemble that remark about being older than you are, but I still know who Quagmire is. Giggity, giggitiy, where’s Lois?

  6. For a long time I thought I was the only person who saw Quagmire’s resemblance to Bob Hope. Id mention it and people would stare at me. Then one day “Stewie” called him by that name. I feel better now.

    Great pic BTW.

  7. Michel

    Darn, I´m getting old. I saw immediatly Nixon in it.

  8. Bob Hope for me. Ogling some heavenly gazongas.

  9. I was too busy looking at the one-eyed koala in the second bump but now I see it, I’m going with Nixon.

  10. Cindy

    I’m younger than you Phil, but since I don’t watch “Family Guy”, I saw Bob Hope.

  11. Daffy

    Bob Hope for me—but Quagmire is good, too. Btw, has anyone else noticed that Quagmire looks like Nixon and his name is Quagmire? I love that joke—and no one ever talks about it. I guess I am old.

  12. Joe Alvord

    I see Jack Skellington’s ghost-dog from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

  13. DrFlimmer

    @ Ivan3man

    Wow, that’s a gorgeous looking…. cake. 😉

  14. chris.j.

    i dunno, looked like the face on mars to me…

  15. DrFlimmer

    @ Chris.j.

    But from the side…. 😀

  16. It took me a while to find Quagmires face.

    Ivan are you saying the face looks like Shatner or are you bragging about your birthday cake (and possible girlfriend)?

  17. stan9fos
  18. GregG

    Looks like “Kahuna” from the Sherman’s Lagoon comic strip.

  19. I see Jesus on burnt toast, but that’s just me…

  20. Maybe Ivan3man is saying that this looks like the Mutara Nebula?

    Oy, is it sad that I just knew the name used in the movie? Ouch!

  21. Joel

    I see the Gruffalo.

  22. Neil

    I see more Bob Hope as well…but just below Bob/Quagmire in the lower right quarter of the image is what appears to be either a mummy rocking out on a guitar, or maybe a witch on a broom, or somebody either on a rope swing or impaled on a spike…

  23. tmac57

    The image to the left of that one looks like either Godzilla or Bigfoot to me (you have to zoom in to get the full effect). I see the Quagmire/Bob Hope resemblance, but I kinda thought Easter Island figure at first.

  24. BJN

    I’m plenty old, but I did get the reference. I can’t stand Seth MacFarlane’s humor.

    I see a dachshund wearing a bomber hat.


    Larian LeQuella got what I was hinting at — every time I see a nebula, I think of Star Trek: Wrath of Khan. (Yeah, I know… I’ve watched that movie too many times!)

  26. I don’t see it. I can see some other shapes in there, but I can’t find Quagmire anywhere. Are you referring ti the silhuette shape above and to the left of centre?

    Cool pic though, of course, as always :-)

  27. Blizzzzzaaaarrg!

    I see nothing but despair. But then again, I did just run out of beer…

  28. 12. Joe Alvord Says: “I see Jack Skellington’s ghost-dog from The Nightmare Before Christmas.”


    That’s not my assessment of your comment, that’s the character’s name.

  29. Bob_In_Wales

    As I type this the children are watching The Nightmare Before Christmas on the telly behind me. Well, it is almost Halloween. Coincidence?

    Anyhow, speaking of children the first thing I was reminded of was their ultrasounds.

  30. lziki

    looks like a Moai, seen from the side.

  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    Magnificent image – I love it. :-)

    As for what you can see in it that’s limited only by one’s imagination.

    Like looking into clouds and campfires & seeing all the pictures one’s mind’s eye makes. 😉

  32. fatherdaddy

    Am I the only one who sees Cleveland picking him up by the collar? I’m guessing heaving him out the door or holding his head out of the toilet.

  33. I also see an air guitar playing dude better than Quagmire…

  34. Mikel

    Looks more like a poodle to me.

  35. Chris in Texas

    I dub thee…the Bob Hope Nebula.

  36. Douglas Troy

    All I could think of when looking at that picture, is cream being poured into a fresh cup of hot coffee …

    Dark roast.

    Just ground.

    It’s full of stars.

  37. DigitalAxis

    I see the Dread Lord Cluthu in there (or at least a giant squid)… the ridge in the upper left is a tentacle, as is the ridge going off the right, and the curls at the center-bottom are more tentacles. Then there’s a fairly straight line going toward the lower center-left that’s the squid’s head; a prominent dark feature just to the right of that ridge is a closed eye; the other one is “out of sight” on the other side.

  38. Looks very much Like a fifi dog. Like a poddle.

  39. Anchor

    Phil, I’ve got to say that I’m really sick and tired to death of the tedious tendency in pop-astronomy to point out what clouds and other celestial objects might resemble. From one like yourself, who has produced a fair archive that demerits the pareidoliac significance in astronomical and other imagery, which I’ve much enjoyed as well as employed in educating my students and acquaintances when pointing out the distinction between appraising the appearance of an observed object or phenomenon on a psychological or scientific basis, I find this kind of entry nothing but a horrid rollback of any progress you have previously contributed to.

    No, it isn’t even “fun”. It’s thoroughly STUPID. Knock it off.

    In case you need reminding, MOST people still like to visit your site in order to obtain an uplifting and inspiring as well as easiily digestible scientific interpretation or insight. You have delivered just that for years. Unfortunately you’ve lately begun to fall off that previous legacy. And now you post a magnificent HST image of a section of the “Lagoon”, bursting with never-seen details that might inspire a decent scientific interpretation of what’s going on, and instead point out for the edification of your visitors, that there is Bob Hope, Richard Nixon or Quagmire in that one cloud shape.

    Personally, methinks it is like a weasel.

  40. Patrick

    I see a manatee.

  41. DLC

    #4: I told you, Pluto isn’t a planet, it’s a dwarf planet!
    (so is it sleepy, dopey, Doc, grumpy or which ?)

  42. JB of Brisbane

    What, no tag to “Pareidolia”?
    To be honest, I thought you were going to show part of it enlarged* and say “Behold – the Horsehead Nebula” or “The Pillars Of Creation” or something similar. Was a bit let down (not as much as Anchor, though) to find it was a resemblance to Quagmire.
    (* – no Beavis and Butthead sniggers, please).

  43. Argos
  44. John

    I see the face of Jesus. This is only further proof of the theory of intelligent design.

  45. Renee
  46. Anchor

    JB, I wasn’t let down. I was very annoyed.

    It’s like an ear worm: I’ll never be able to gaze upon this wonderful spectacle again without flashing on Quagmire. (Or Bob Hope or Richard Nixon, thanks alot Phil). It may seem a trivial distraction, but for many it wrecks a scientific appreciation as well as the aesthetic enjoyment one may derive from such gorgeous images.

    Same with the “Horsehead” and other objects and phenomena with suggestive namesakes. This is readily apparent when one shows images of Barnard 33 or IC 434 (aka “Horsehead nebula”) to children who have never seen it before. When it is shown with north up or down, as is the conventional orientation for astrophotos, the dark nebula rarely elicits a ‘recognition’ of it’s namesake.

    Unfortunately, most astrophotographers and magazine and book publishers worsen the situation by rotating the image to support the recognition instead of an appreciation of the object on its own merits. Kids look at IC 434 with a conventional north or south up orientation and are visibly stirred by its structure and beauty. They’ll keep on looking at it closely, discovering new details every moment. Turn the image about just so, however, and most kids (say, first or second-graders) have a tendency to respond, “It looks like a horse’s head!”…and promptly quit LOOKING at it because they figure they’ve ‘successfully identified it’ and think there’s nothing more to it. So much for getting kids interested in what astronomy is supposed to be about.

    It might as well be a Rorschach test instead of an examination of how one pocket of dust-laden gas can respond to an interstellar breeze. But if it’s a “horsehead” or “Quagmire” or whatever, further examination is curtailed if not stopped dead.

    That’s a real problem. And it is NOT trivial. 😉

  47. Brian Too

    Did anyone see the episode where Lois decided to sleep with Quagmire? She told him she trusted him, which immediately caused him a performance problem! Ah, funny, funny stuff.

    It never even occurred to me that Quagmire was invested in a “bad boy” persona. Of course he’s a secondary character and quite the stereotype to boot. Still a brilliant piece of comedy!

  48. Clearly the face of Quagmire in that Nebula is God’s sign for how we should act. Giggity giggity amen! 😉


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