An image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope showed the Cat's Paw Nebula, so named for the large, round features that create the impression of a feline footprint, according to a release of NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Wednesday.
The nebula is a star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy, located in the constellation Scorpius, with an estimated distance from Earth ranging from about 4,200 to about 5,500 light-years, JPL said.
The image was created using data from two of Spitzer's instruments.
After gas and dust inside the nebula collapse to form stars, the stars may in turn heat up the pressurized gas surrounding them, causing it to expand into space and create bubbles.
The Cat's Paw star-forming region is estimated to be between 24 and 27 parsecs, about 80 and 90 light years, according to JPL.
Spitzer is an infrared telescope, and infrared light is useful to astronomers because it can penetrate thick clouds of gas and dust better than optical light, JPL said.
The black filaments running horizontally through the nebula are regions of gas and dust so dense not even infrared light can pass through them. These dense regions may soon be sites where another generation of stars will form, according to JPL.