ESO’s newest nebula image may be the biggest picture it’s ever taken

At 49,511 x 39,136 pixels, the image clocks in at 5.4 GB.
By | Published: February 1, 2017 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Cat’s Paw Nebula and Lobster Nebula

The European Southern Observatory has taken a picture of two nebula in our galaxy so huge that the file would take up 5.4 gigabytes on your hard drive — and likely slow down any computer you try to load it on.

Thankfully, at least, they’ve provided an easier way to zoom in and out.

The picture involves two nebula NGC 6334 and NGC 6357. Despite all appearances, they’re quite far away from each other. NGC 6334 is 8,000 light years away from us, while NGC 6357 is 5,500 years away. The nebulae are both in the Scorpius constellation.

In between the nebula, several stars are apparent, as well as the shape of a cat’s paw that gives NGC 6334 its nickname. The objects are 2 degrees apart in the sky, or 120 arc minutes. That means this picture spans roughly four lengths of the Moon in the sky. (NGC 6357 is called the Lobster Nebula or the War and Peace Nebula, depending on who you ask.)

Most North American observers won’t be able to see Scorpius, as it’s a southern constellation. I suppose instead that you’ll have to enjoy this 49,511 x 39,136 pixels image.