NASA never misses a chance to mesmerise its followers on social media with spectacular views of cosmic marvels. To mark the World Oceans Day that is celebrated every year on June 8, the space agency shared a picture of the Manatee Nebula which is a 700 light-years-long supernova remnant named W50. The nebula’s uncanny resemblance to Florida Manatees earned it its name. The endangered aquatic mammals are about 10 feet long & spend much of their day resting, often on their backs with their flippers crossed over their plump bellies. This pose widely associated with the aquatic animal shares a stark similarity with the shape of nebula W50.
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The stark similarity between the two was first noticed by Heidi Winter, executive assistant to NRAO’s director and Tania Burchell, an NRAO media producer who quickly saw it as “a wonderful opportunity to bridge two worlds—biology and astronomy”.
Nebula W50 is the remnant of a giant star in the constellation of Aquilla that exploded as a supernova around 20,000 years ago and sent its gases outward forming a bubble or cloud. It’s not just the shape the two have in common. There are more attributes that bear similitude. W50 features particle beams forming a spiral pattern around it which appears to look like scars. Similarly, Manatees which prefer shallow waters also bear scars due to their collisions with the boat propellers.
Furthermore, much like the ‘sea cow’ that can blend in the murky water, the gaseous cloud that is approximately 18,000 light-years away is hard to spot in the sky.
Much like other stunning pictures of celestial bodies shared by the agency, this image too received an overwhelming response with over 23000 likes from netizens. As they were left awestruck, they couldn’t contain their amazement and flooded the post with numerous reactions. While some compared it to a conch shell, others looked at it as the Statue of Liberty holding the light and the rest remained stunned.