Hubble’s Carineidolia contest

By Phil Plait | October 14, 2012 7:00 am

On April 24, 2007 – the 17th anniversary of Hubble’s launch – the Space Telescope Science Institute released a devastating picture of the Carina Nebula, a ridiculously complex and gorgeous star forming region about 7500 light years from Earth.

Here’s the picture:

Like I said, gorgeous! [Click to keelhaulenate.]

Any structure with that kind of detail in it is going to spark your brain, making you see all sorts of things in it like faces, animals, and so on. This is called pareidolia, and is one of my favorite things of all time. It’s so fun, in fact, that the folks at the Institute are holding a monthly contest which they call the Hubble Heritage Creative Challenge [Facebook link], and this month’s contest is to find examples of pareidolia in the Carina Nebula. They have a few that have been submitted already on display.

It’s not hard to find things in the nebula. Either click the image above, or just go to the Hubble site with a zoomable image of Carina and start panning and scanning! You’ll find tons of stuff.

In fact, in a post I wrote back when this image was first released I pulled out some choice objects to discuss, and one of them is the famous finger you see here. I wouldn’t suggest submitting it, though: the judges may rule against you prejudicially given the attitude conveyed.

But if you find something good, you can win a print of a Hubble image! The artwork with the most "Likes" will win. But hurry: the contest ends October 19.

Thanks to my friend Tiffany Davis at STScI for letting me know about the contest.

Related Posts:

Desktop Project Part 26: Carina will keel haul your brain
Hubble’s 17th: Chaos, birth, and near death
Supernovae popping off like firecrackers in Carina
Hubble celebrates 20 years in space with a jaw-dropper


Comments (16)

  1. Eta Carinae, hypernova, cha cha cha! “one kiloton of TNT/km^2 energy deposition over Earth’s hemisphere facing the star. Ionizing radiation depositing 10X lethal whole body dose at the surface.” We must violently tax the first World to push that catastrophe into the future (the hypernova, not imposed financial ruin).

  2. Richard

    Do you think this is Phil’s sneaky way of giving us the finger? Thought so. :-)

  3. Chris

    Wow, I am seriously tempted to make this my new desktop background image. Also I found Eta Carinae in there. It looks so small, just amazing.

  4. Sam H

    Off topic, but Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos jump was a huge SUCCESS!!! ūüėÄ

  5. Kit

    This has been my background for YEARS and I never noticed that!

  6. DrFlimmer

    I like the “finger picture”. I sometimes use it on the web if someone p***** me off. ūüėÄ

  7. mikel

    I didn’t see the finger, I saw a wisp of smoke coming from the nostrils of a green headed dragon.

  8. Nobody

    I’ve always referred to it as the “Finger of God” myself.

  9. I definitely see Mohammed in there.

  10. Frost Bite

    Hubble always makes me wish I hadn’t been born for at least a few more thousand years or more, then I remember that I would have missed Amy Mainzer’s big brown mesmerizing eyes. :)

  11. Hah! I did a post on this nearly four years ago! (I just submitted it, with all the photos, to the contest.)

  12. sam

    always see so many ghoulish faces when looking at space pics

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    @10. RWaltz : “I definitely see Mohammed in there.”

    Why Mohammad, how do you know what he looks like – and, um, which Mohammad?

    (Pretty sure I read somewhere that its the world’s most common human “Christian” name. ūüėČ )

  14. Jess Tauber

    You know if you rotate the finger 90 degrees counterclockwise or so, you get what looks like the profile of FDR to some extent, Ghostbusters-wise.

  15. CatMom

    “Keelhaulenate”. It took me a few moments to get that one – funny!


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