Angry nebula is really REALLY angry

By Phil Plait | November 16, 2011 7:00 am

In the heart of the Large Magellanic Cloud (one of the Milky Way’s many satellite galaxies), there lies a vast complex of gas called 30 Doradus. And inside that sprawling volume of space is the Tarantula Nebula, a star-forming region so huge it dwarfs even our own Orion Nebula. Thousands of stars are churning away in there, going through the process of being born.

And as they do, the hottest and brightest of them carve huge cavities in the nebula, heating the tenuous gas therein to millions of degrees. The result? This:

[Click to embiggen.]

I love this image! It’s a combination of observations from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (in blue, showing the incredibly hot gas) and from Spitzer Space Telescope (in red, showing cooler gas). Those bubbles of hot, X-ray emitting gas are constrained by the cooler gas around them, but it’s likely the hot gas is expanding, driving the overall expansion of the nebula itself. However, it’s also possible the sheer flood of high-energy radiation from the nascent stars is behind the gas’s expansion… or it’s a combination of both. Astronomers are still arguing over this, and observations like this one will help figure out who’s right.

… but you know me. I love pareidolia, and there’s no way you can look at this image and not see a really angry screaming face, shrieking at that blue blob hovering in its way. That’s so cool!

And c’mon, NASA: you release this image two weeks after Halloween? Oh well, I’ll add it to my scary astronomy gallery anyway, which is after the jump below.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al.; Infrared: NASA/JPL/PSU/L.Townsley et al.

 

chandra_tarantula
adamblock_vdb1_scream
bloodyaspeneye
chandra_perseuscluster
eyjafjallajokull_radar_2
ngc2467_2
runningghost_2
sgraw1ly_2
sh2-136blocks_2
skullflower
spitzer_dr6_2
vista_heartandskull_2
witchheadnebula_2

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pareidolia, Pretty pictures

Comments (39)

  1. stjobe

    That is quite clearly a dragon in the left-hand side of the picture facing right, breathing a ball of blue fire to the right.

    Or maybe I’ve just been playing to much Skyrim lately :)

  2. Jan

    Nono, that’s clearly a nebula giving us the finger.

  3. SleepyGrump

    Phil, your RSS feed has stopped including the actual article – is that deliberate? Honestly I’d rather view your posts in my RSS reader than on your site – I hope that’s not a problem! Thanks for the wonderful blog, and you’re right, that image is definitely creepy enough for Halloween. Pity a “terrifying nebula” costume would be rather tricky to construct!

  4. BigMak

    It’s Marge Simpson, come to life!!

  5. gib

    I don’t see an angry face.
    I see the stay-puff marshmelow man, running, mid-stride, with his trailing arm being held high in the air, and holding something glowing in his forward hand.
    (I may have misspelled stay-puff, seeing as I only know him from Ghostbusters)

  6. john

    .. and I see a phoenix wrapped around a fat blue storm-trooper whose arms are outstretched.

  7. Nice picture!
    Off-topic: Phill can you explain your readers what is wrong with Phobos-Grunt mission? They say that it’s not gona make it into Mars, is that true??? What a bummer…

  8. GrogInOhio

    I see a fist giving me a middle finger! HEY!!

  9. Digital Atheist

    I see a big blue finger. :O

  10. there’s no way you can look at this image and not see a really angry screaming face, shrieking at that blue blob hovering in its way

    huh…I really don’t see it. Actually I see the blue fireball shooting dragon that st. jobe mentioned.

  11. GoodGoshGolly

    First thing I saw was the playboy bunny.

    Is that a bad sign?

  12. Hmph.
    *turns screen sideways*
    Nope. Still can’t see it.
    The best I can manage is a sort-of blue butterfly, but even that doesn’t really convince me. Anyway, who needs to see imaginary faces when there’s all that awesome going on?

  13. Astin

    Agree – really can’t see the face, but definitely see a nebula flipping the bird.

  14. I see a large blue puppy (no, not _that_ blue puppy) with outstretched arms, wanting a bug. (Head, with two eyes, a nose, and big floppy ears, in the upper-right of the image.)

  15. I am definitely in the flaming-blue-hand-flipping-the-bird camp

  16. DrFlimmer

    If it’s an angry face, then it’s an angry face of a Klingon!

  17. Other Paul

    I’m with gib, john, and ken b for the general posture and extent of the shape – except that it’s a blue bunny. It’s the floppy ears y’see.

    Oh, and he’s on a skateboard. Did I mention the skateboard?

  18. Bette Noir

    All I see is a friendly dog.

  19. melbassoon

    I saw the middle finger right away. I looked for the face. . . It’s a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple (well, blue here) people eater!

  20. If thats what you see as angry I would hate to see you angry lol

  21. Robin Byron

    Ever the ocean oriented person, I see a galactic blue ringed octopus.

    OT-PS: Thanks for the reply on /., Phil. Oooo, and I even scored first (ever) post. (yeah, alias fuego451) ;)

  22. Chris Martin

    It looks like Fozzie Bear to me!

  23. @1 stjobe: That is quite clearly a dragon in the left-hand side of the picture facing right, breathing a ball of blue fire to the right.
    Or maybe I’ve just been playing to much Skyrim lately

    Agh, you lucky bastard :-P My 360 just RRODed on me. I guess it had a good run, it’s one of the original models from 5 years ago. Still, I was so looking forward to Skyrim, and then BAM! :(
    Sheesh. If a car manufacturer (or even PC manufacturer) put out a product with the failure rate of the Xbox, they’d have the SEC on their asses. The solder just breaks? In a machine that never gets moved? Seriously??
    *rant gripe rant*

    And now I’m between jobs and can’t justify buying a new one. Grr. Of course, I’d probably be a lot less likely to get much job hunting done if I were playing Skyrim, so maybe the RROD saved my ass :-P

  24. I didn’t see it until I mentally shifted the face so that it was facing to the right. At first I was looking for sort of a left-facing… face. Didn’t really see it then.

  25. @3 SleepyGrump: Pity a “terrifying nebula” costume would be rather tricky to construct!

    I’d love to take that challenge, if I had the money to throw at it! I’m picturing a thick suit of extremely fine fluff, with a couple of smoke machines inside, and some colored lighting. As for terrifying, well, I’d be scared of anyone wearing that suit ;)

  26. Christine P.

    Try tilting your head 45 degrees to the right. As Joseph G says, you then can see a face facing to the right, screaming at the blob. YMMV

  27. Thomas Siefert

    I see the heat and pain, a day after a good vindaloo, visualised….

  28. 7. Gonçalo Aguiar Says: Nice picture!
    Off-topic: Phill can you explain your readers what is wrong with Phobos-Grunt mission? They say that it’s not gona make it into Mars, is that true??? What a bummer…

    I second that, Phil. We want Grunt! :)
    Also, I didn’t see anything about the crewed Soyuz launch a couple of days ago. It was somewhat notable in light of the worries about that failed Soyuz cargo mission and possible manufacturing problems.

    Still, I don’t want to snark too much. It’s your blog, and you’re the Bad Astronomer, not the Ragin’ Rocketeer ;)

    [shameless_plug] Click on my name for a link to a Soyuz update. [/shameless_plug]

  29. David

    It looks like the monster from Forbidden Planet.

  30. Tim

    Looks like the nebulla is giving us the finger for looking at it the wrong way.

  31. IW

    “…there’s no way you can look at this image and not see a really angry screaming face…”

    I see a Smurf. In a really bad accident. Mwa-ha-haaa!

  32. Eric

    I’m in the crowd seeing the nebula giving us the finger. Which is amusing. The blue grabs my attention far more – after really looking, I kinda-sorta see a somewhat face in the red… which then gives me a blue middle finger.

  33. I think Phil has programmed himself to find pareidolia wherever he looks.
    Try as I might I can’t see an angry face. Best I can do is ET with an ear of corn balanced on his head. Sorry.

  34. Chris Martin:

    It looks like Fozzie Bear to me!

    Actually, if I concentrate on the gold/brown/orange colored area, rather than the blue, I was going to say I thought it was Rowlf (the piano-playing dog), rather than Fozzie Bear. (Maybe the blue puppy isn’t asking for a hug, but rather running in terror from Rowlf?)

    Isn’t pareidolia fun?

  35. The Mutt

    I see a blue sock monkey set on fire.

  36. Borat

    I don’t see a face in any of those pics.

  37. I agree with Jan et al.

    Clearly, this is Dr. Manhattan from _Watchmen_ flipping us off!

  38. KimS

    Heh. I’m usually very quick to see things like that, but I can’t see anything in the really angry nebula at all. Odd.

  39. reidh

    These are very very cool. I submit that had the “ancients” known of these pareidoliae in the heavens, in the same locations in the night sky, where they had already ascribed anthropomorphic imagery, they would have all gone starkers, no?

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