NGC 6357, also known as the Lobster Nebula or War and Peace Nebula, is a diffuse nebula located approximately 5,500 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Scorpius. The nebula spans about 400 light-years across and is a rich region of star formation, containing many young, massive stars.
This nebula is particularly known for hosting a cluster of massive stars called Pismis 24. Some of the stars within Pismis 24 are amongst the most massive stars known.
Within the complex structure of this nebula, a distinct feature has been observed that resembles a koala bear. “The Cosmic Koala,” formation adds an intriguing visual element to the nebula. The resemblance to a koala may be attributed to pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon where familiar shapes or patterns are perceived in random or unrelated objects. Some well-known examples of nebulae exhibiting pareidolia includes The Horsehead Nebula, The Witch Head Nebula, The Cat’s Eye Nebula and The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula to name a few!
The Cosmic Koala and the Lobster Nebula together offer a fascinating example of how our minds seek to make connections between the vast universe and the world as we know it. While the focus of scientific inquiry remains on understanding the physical processes at work within the nebula, this unique feature serves as an interesting point of engagement for those like me interested in astronomy, art and the wonders of the cosmos.