The Noodly Patty of Star Formation. Yes, You Read That Right.

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Dec. 17 2013 11:00 AM

The Noodly Patty of Star Formation

When Adam Block sent me a note that he took a photo of the star-forming region IC 417, I was pretty happy. I love nebulae—giant gas clouds, some of which are where stars are born—and Adam is a fine astrophotographer. I knew it would be cool. And it is:

IC 417
IC 417, a star forming gas cloud roughly 10,000 light years away. Click to embiggen.

Photo by Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

Lovely! And as I looked it over, I thought over how I could write about why the gas is red in some places and blue in others, why there are knotty clumps of stuff floating around, and how the two oppositely directed streams of material indicate a very young star hidden in the thick soup, still madly gathering material around itself while its strong magnetic field ejected some of that stuff out at high velocity.

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But all the while, something was bugging me about the picture. And then I realized what it was: This was not an ordinary nebula.

FSM
Praise be.

Photo from vanganza.org

But even then it still bugged me. It bears a strong resemblance to the FSM, but it’s not as close as I first thought. I worried over it for a while, and then it hit me, out of the blue. The deep blue.

Mr. Krabs
Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell. The smelly smell that smells ... smelly.

Photos by Adam Block, Nickelodeon

It’s Mr. Krabs!

The nebula is not yellow or absorbent or porous, but it definitely could drop to the deck and flop like a fish.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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