The European Space Agency has released a huge photo of deep space, featuring a favorite nebula, NGC 63334, known as the Catspaw Nebula. It is a beautiful nebula, that is about 5000 light-years from Earth. Not surprisingly, it bears a fairly striking resemblance to a cat’s paw, as seen from below (i.e. the pad of the paw). The image also includes another major nebula, known as the Lobster Nebula (NGC 6357).
The Catspaw nebula is an emission nebula, and a star forming region, rather like the great nebula in the constellation of Orion. Basically, that means is shines from the light of ionized gases (like a fluorescent bulb), that have been energized by starlight, from the massive, hot, young stars in the nebula. The chemical compsosition of the nebula determines the colour of the light – for example, red for hydrogen and green for oxygen.
It is at a declination of -35 degrees, in Scorpius, which is quite far south. In fact, it was first discovered by Hershel in 1837, from the Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa. Nonetheless, it can be seen from mid-latitudes and southern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, as well as from the southern hemisphere.
The image is about 2 billion pixels. That’s about 45000 rows by 45000 columns, according to my calculator. The image (link below) is so big, that you can zoom away to your heart’s content. You should try it – it’s like having your own spaceship.
Which brings me to the other interesting thing about the Catspaw Nebula. We featured it on the cover of Helena Puumala’s science fiction and romance novel, The Witches’ Stones Book 3 – The Revenge of the Catspaw. A catspaw is someone who does the bidding of someone else (often unaware, though not necessarily), usually a nefarious someone else. As you can tell from the novel’s title, that is a major aspect of the book. The Catspaw Nebula was a good visual metaphor, to represent the theme and major plot points of the book. And nothing says science fiction like a picture of deep space. And, yes, cats (rather large and ferocious ones) also play a significant role in the story.
So, have a look at the incredible image of the Catspaw Nebula provided by The European Southern Observatory. Then, go on over to Amazon, and get the book (very reasonably priced, by the way, as is the entire 3 book series).-----------------------------------------------------------------
The Witches' Stones, Book 3 - Revenge of the Catspaw
Sarah and Coryn have become married, under the traditions of the Witches of Kordea. But the marriage is performed by the Eldest of the most important coven, a rare honour, that comes with a blessing and a curse. The slow working out of this blessing and curse forms the backdrop to the story.
Having come so close to their goal of enhancing their weaponry via Witches' Stone power, The Organization will not give up. In order to lure Sarah into their trap, and thus have her become their Catspaw (someone who is forced into helping another, against their will) they need bait, and Coryn becomes the bait. He also comes under the domination of a particularly nasty Elite of The Organization, one "Evil Evilla" Copoz.
Sarah, and a picked group of companions, must re-enter The Organization space, this time to the very heart of the empire, to rescue her husband, as he has done for her in the past. They do so at great peril, but nothing can stop the terrible Revenge of the Catspaw.
The Witches' Stones, Book 2 - Love and Intrigue, Under the Seven Moons of Kordea
Sarah has taken refuge on the planet of Kordea, where she is also learning how to control her psychic abilities, through the tutelage of the Witches of Kordea. Coryn Leigh has now taken up the position of Confederation diplomat to the Kordeans, but he is also charged with keeping the Mackenzie girl safe at all costs. During their time on the planet, an attraction between them grows, though they try to deny it, to themselves and each other.
But The Organization has plans of its own, including threatening the destruction of the planet Kordea, via destabalizing the orbit of Lina, one of its many moons. The Organization proves that its threats are in deadly earnest, so, ultimately Sarah, Coryn and the Witches of Kordea must take the fight to the enemy. Thus is borne a dangerous mission, to a planet where their foe has based the weapon that threatens Kordea, and ultimately, the balance of power throughout the galaxy. Sarah and Coryn agree that the machine must be destroyed, even at the possible cost of their own lives and growing love.
The Witches' Stones, Book 1 - Rescue from the Planet of the Amartos
Young Earth woman and spaceship mechanic, Sarah Mackenzie, has unwittingly triggered a vast source of energy, the Witches' Stones, via her psychic abilities, of which she was unaware. She becomes the focal point of a desperate contest between the authoritarian galactic power, known as The Organization, and the democratic Earth-based galactic power, known as The Terran Confederation. The Organization wants to capture her, and utilize her powers to create a super-weapon; the Terra Confederation wants to prevent that at all costs. The mysterious psychic aliens, the Witches of Kordea also become involved, as they see her as a possible threat, or a possible ally, for the safety of their own world.
A small but fast scout-ship, with its pilot and an agent of the Terra Confederation, Coryn Leigh, are sent to rescue her from a distant planet at the very edge of the galaxy, near space claimed by The Organization. Battles, physical and mental, whirl around the young woman, as the agent and pilot strive at all costs to keep her from the clutches of the Organization.