(Left) Image Used With Permission From Tracy Colson; (Right) NRAO/AUI/NSF, K. Golap, M. Goss, WISE/NASA

ScienceShot: Sea Cow in Space

A distant nebula 18,000 light-years away bears a startling resemblance to Earth's humble manatee—down to the "scars" on its back. Scientists already knew of the giant cloud, called the W50 nebula, which formed when a star went supernova 20,000 years ago. But a new image of it taken by the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) telescope (right), has inspired a new name for the object: the Manatee Nebula. The nebula received its moniker after someone at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory noticed its resemblance to a manatee floating on its back, flippers over tummy. Bright arcs formed by powerful jets of charged particles in the massive cloud mirror the curved boat propeller scars the endangered animals often bear. And like its namesake, the Manatee Nebula is a whopper: It's 700 light-years across, one of the biggest supernova remnants ever spotted by VLA.

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Posted in Space