Kali ma… Kali ma… Kali ma, shakti deh!

By Phil Plait | August 10, 2011 7:02 am

[I suppose this post has a PG-13 rating. Not for language or nudity, but for what may be a (humorously) disturbing image for some folks. Be ye fairly warned, says I.]

So the European Southern Observatory took the Very Large Telescope, pointed it at NGC 1929 — a cluster of stars 180,000 light years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud — and got this amazing picture:

[Click to ennebulenate, or grab the huger 1780 x 1780 pixel version.]

I was all set to talk about how this huge bubble — over 300 light years across! — is being blown into the gas surrounding the cluster by the combined mighty winds of the stars inside it, young massive stars that live short, violent lives that end in short, violent deaths, and how this will compress the gas further and induce even more star formation, but how in the meantime they’re flooding the gas with powerful ultraviolet radiation that’s lighting up the gas precisely like a neon sign, and how amazingly detailed this image is despite the cluster and gas being in another galaxy at a distance of nearly 2 quintillion kilometers…

… but then that all came to a crashing halt when I realized this nebula looks like a monkey with a giant hole in its head, and all I could think of was "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

I guess that makes me more of a geek than an astronomer. But as a great archaeologist once said, "Nothing shocks me, I’m a scientist."

Image credits: ESO/Manu Mejias; Iconseeker.

Related posts:

A bubble nestled in the Scorpion’s sting
Supernovae popping off like firecrackers in Carina
Hubble sees baby stars eating sandwiches and blowing bubbles
A vast, cosmic cloudy brain looms in a nearby galaxy


Comments (50)

  1. The paradolia force is strong with you, Phil.

  2. alfaniner

    The great thing about pareidolia is that people can see different things in the same image. I saw Too Much Coffee Man (a character that has his own comic book).

  3. Grizzly

    Uhhh. No, don’t see it at all. Sometimes a nebula is just a nebula.

  4. Yoweigh

    I see Greedo in the pink blob near the center. Han shot first?

  5. Ciaran

    Wow, that’s not what I saw at all! A sperm fertilising an egg was what jumped out at me.

  6. Chad

    When I read just your title and saw the picture, I thought that it looked just like the outline of a human heart. Like the kind Mola Ram took out of that guy’s chest.

  7. weyburn

    My god,it’s full of stars!

  8. jaranath

    That’s what I thought, Ciaran.

    What’s up with the pattern of lines just southeast of the sperm, in the vaguely milky cloud? Looks interesting. Wish I could point it out in the picture…but there are three faint parallel lines going upward until they all suddenly start curving, still in parallel. Sort of like a set of stacked spoons slightly spaced apart and viewed from the side. There could be a couple faint ones to the right of those, reversed. Just pareidolia? Is something “small” in that area puffing out it’s own little bubble?

  9. anonymoose

    sorry phil…

    reminds me more of the goatse pic than monkey brains…

  10. Mejilan

    Lovely, lovely image. But I don’t see the Indy Jones reference either, sadly.
    “Ahhh. Chilled, a-monkey, brains!”

  11. Sarah

    I can’t see these nebulae without wondering what they would look like if they were very close. What an awesome night sky that would be! The ancient’s mythology imaginations would go wild interpreting the obvious vast structures all around them.

  12. Erik

    I think your pareidolia lobe is working overtime, Phil. =)

  13. RobT

    That’s exactly what I saw after you pointed it out. Until I read that I just saw a nebula. And of course once you mentioned monkey brains I thought of the dinner scene from ToD as well. Great minds, and so forth…

  14. Carey

    “And monkey’s brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, or not often to be found in Washington, DC!”

    –Another geeky movie (“Clue”)

  15. Tom (H. Type)

    Chad, that is what I saw too, a human heart.
    I guess It depends what frame of mind your in when you look at this…
    I wonder if there is an alien astronomer looking at it from the other side, seeing chilled “OGlog” brains?

  16. tphtwpe

    OK Phil, I will admit I see the monkey head. It took a while, but I found it…. For those who don’t, the face is to the lower right. The two bright spots are eyes, and the grayish area below those is the mouth/nose. The red ring above the eyes is the skull opening and the way the gas trails away kind of looks like hair. The hole in the middle of the ring is where the brain should be. Looks like someone already beat us to the tasty “BRRRAAAIIINS”. I love having fun with Paredolia.

  17. Praedico

    I guess I can sort of see it, now it’s been pointed out, but at first the only bit that looked like anything to me was the white-ish bit that looks a teensy bit like a skull.

  18. Gary

    I also saw the sperm and egg. I was pretty excited to finally see proof of life in another part of the universe.

  19. Bob

    The conception of a Star Child, perhaps?

    Free pop culture reference. No need to thank me.


  20. I saw the picture and thought it was cool. Then after reading the note Phil left us, I saw a pair of breasts… After a few minutes of looking, I was finally able to see the monkey head. I guess I know where my mind is today.

  21. Don

    I’m too much of a screwed up geek i guess. I saw what looks like a kamehameha blast about to smack Galactus in the jaw. I admit it, i’m out there.

  22. Anne Ominous

    I too see sperm and egg.

  23. I don’t know whether to be awed or disgusted.

  24. DAve

    ok. scary looking face at three O’clock but the playboy bunny right below it? Funny

  25. astronomynut

    I saw the sperm and egg as well. I wonder if I’d seen that if the post title hadn’t been slightly suggestive. I still doubt I’d have seen the monkey brains!

  26. I can see the sperm AND the monkey.. or should I say.. ape!? It looks like a chimp, right side of the face towards the viewer and looking in a slight downward angle (about 4 o clock).

    The section of pinkyness directly to the right of the big bubble looks like a brow ridge and as soon as I saw that I got it..

    Docta Jones!!

  27. Open shark jaws! NOM

  28. Roberto

    Phil, your pareidolia sights are getting more far-fetched every time. I think it’s time to look for professional help…

  29. I see a gigantic mouth trying to devour a jellyfish. Talk of pareidolia!!

  30. Richard

    You must of had chilled monkey brains for breakfast to come up with something like that!

  31. Joseph G

    Chalk me up in the “bloody heart” column. In fact, that’s ALL I can see.
    Does this qualify as the galaxy’s biggest Rorschach Test? And should I be worried? :)

    Serious astronomy question, though – the bubble is hundreds of light years across, and yet, the heliopause of our own sun is just a matter of light-hours distant. I know blue stars are extremely energetic, but enough so that their solar winds reach out several dozen (at least, right?) light-years and still have enough oomph to move what must be dozens or hundreds of solar masses worth of matter?

    Phil was absolutely right when he said that astronomy tends to positively crush your sense of scale.


  32. Ann

    I recognized the joke just from the title. Dear lord, I’m geekier than I thought I was.

  33. Joseph H.

    NSFW pareidolia had my mind in the gutter. So what I saw was a women wearing a cowl and nothing else. Her face is hidden but her chest stomach and navel appear and fade away as the waist approaches.

    Similar to something you might see in a barbarian comic book.

  34. KC

    I dub thee the “Monkey Brain Nebula”!

  35. mike burkhart

    Looks like a comet entering a black hole ,by the way the Thuge worship rituals in Indana Jones and the tempel of doom were made up,no one knows the Thuge worship rituals .The Thuge were wiped out in 1892 and left no writings.And for fellow Indana Jones fans may I recomend the comic: Indana Jones and The fate of Atlantis you will love it.

  36. Fox

    I saw a human heart, but that could just be the paraedolia response to the title of the article.

  37. I saw the picture and recognized the Temple of Doom reference in the title… and I thought you were going to say it looked like when the Thuge priest held up the dude’s heart. Pareidolia is a strange thing, eh?

    I saw the Android logo in a stain on my bathroom floor the other day, but unfortunately it wasn’t particularly visible in the picture I took. Bummer.

  38. Lynn Wilhelm

    I don’t see it either. Egg and sperm for me.

    Oh, wait. Looked again and I think I see it. The sperm is the monkey’s face. That’s a big holey head.

  39. Ut

    I’ll add my name to the growing list who see the human heart (though I can see the munkee hed, as well as Homer Simpson’s head, and a melting head from Raiders, the egg and sperm, the hadoken, and the Playboy bunny, too).

    @Joseph G (#31)

    The Sun’s heliopause may not be particularly big, but what we’re looking at here is the effects of the combined stellar winds of what appear to be hundreds of stars. Just as the air stirred up by a single feather may be insignificant compared to that of an entire wings worth, the pressure caused by one star’s wind and light may be completely unnoticeable while a cluster of similar stars can stretch out for hundreds of light-years.

    You have to keep in mind, too, that larger stars have more ways to push against the nearby interstellar medium, too. The much higher levels of ultraviolet light they give off can help push the gas away, and so can the shockwaves produced as they tear themselves to pieces in violent supernovae explosions (especially early on in the formation of the bubble while there’s still something of note for those shockwaves to pass through).

  40. Chelsea

    I’m seeing a woman’s torso…Dolly Parton style….the floating head from some critter from Star Trek….an upside down fruit bat….an orangutan’s face, upside down(well, maybe more of a gibbon)…and really stretching that red blob in the lower left corner to be an upside down jellyfish.

    Love these deep sky shots. Now I’m REALLY wanting a decent telescope.

  41. ggremlin

    Personally, I think you see the wrong end of the monkey. I’ve see that before at the local zoo when a close relative was expressing his(maybe her) displeasure at being confined.

  42. Messier Tidy Upper

    Ah memories. This nebula – and the BA’s post here – conjures up one of the best and most fun movies I’ve ever seen! Love ‘Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom’ – classic movie. :-)

    Y’know, it *does* look like chilled monkey brains too. With a giant human heart sitting right on top at that! ūüėČ

  43. Tony Venturo

    I see magnificent perfection.

  44. ashok

    I m sorry if I m harsh here but title of the article has nothing to do with contents. It’s like misleading at some point. I don’t know if author wants to get attaintion or something else but its not fair. I do believe in scince like u guys do infact that’s the only practicle and true things we have which can explain why we r here and why universe is created. But because we believe in science doesn’t mean we make fun out of those people who belivea in god. I m sorry if I m misunderstood article. But this is what I believe and wanted to sqy.

  45. ash

    I m sorry if I m harsh here but title of the article has nothing to do with contents. It’s like misleading at some point. I don’t know if author wants to get attaintion or something else but its not fair. I do believe in scince like u guys do infact that’s the only practicle and true things we have which can explain why we r here and why universe is created. But because we believe in science doesn’t mean we make fun out of those people who belivea in god. I m sorry if I m misunderstood article. But this is what I believe and wanted to say.

  46. Chris

    I see a guy throwing up. The pink blob near the lower middle

  47. Checkmate1

    I see the pink Dolly Parton figure, seated, facing us with a glowing lamp in her right hand…..seems to have put on a little weight.

  48. Anchor

    I see what looks like a star-forming nebula with a young cluster of energetic young stars blowing a great bubble in the cloud…

  49. Dragonchild

    It’s a sailboat.

  50. ash (45): It’s a line from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Follow the link at the bottom of the post. I am not making fun of anyone here.


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