Daily Telescope: Is that a seahorse or something more sinister in the sky?

A stunning view of the Barnard 150 nebula.
Enlarge / A stunning view of the Barnard 150 nebula.

Tom Carrico

Welcome to the Daily Telescope. There is a little too much darkness in this world and not enough light, a little too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We’ll let other publications offer you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we’re going to take a different route, finding inspiration from very real images of a universe that is filled with stars and wonder.

Good morning. It’s November 15, and today’s image is something of a Rorschach test.

The photo depicts the Barnard 150 dark nebula—dark in the sense that the thick molecular clouds of this nebula obscure light coming from beyond it toward Earth. The nebula is located about 1,200 light-years from Earth and is visible in the Cepheus constellation.

I say it’s a Rorschach test because different people see different things. For example, if you rotate the image 90 degrees counterclockwise, the nebula looks a lot like a seahorse, and indeed, the object is also referred to as the Seahorse nebula by astronomers.

However, the photographer behind today’s image, Tom Carrico, has a different interpretation. “I showed it this way because I have seen way too many sci-fi movies,” Carrico told me. “The rope-like dark nebula looks like a leash attached to a human. Clearly a warning from extraterrestrials.”


Remarkably, Carrico captured this photo with a RedCat 51 telescope, which is only 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. He took a total of 78 exposures (6.5 hours total). It helped, he says, that he observed the nebulae from the very dark skies of eastern Oregon in July.

Source: Tom Carrico.

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