A Snow Angel Spread Across the Stars 2,000 Light-Years Away

We humans are wired to see shapes and patterns in randomness, which makes us see faces on Mars and everything from butterflies to California in faraway nebulae. Well, this is the holiday edition of that phenomenon... and it's pretty wonderfully ridiculous.

With all due respect to kids in the Midwest, I'm going to go ahead and say star-forming region Sharpless 2-106 has made the best snow angel I'll see all year. This nebula has a gigantic star at its center, dozens of times more massive than our Sun. Instead of flopping its arms in fresh snow, the star has created its wings by super-heating the gas around it, giving it that impressive blue color.

Nestled between the two gas clouds, there are dark bands of gas and dust. They might one day form a planetary system around the star, but right now they simply look like the figure at the center of the wings, which for me pushes this illusion into uncanny territory. I'd say this is the most festive thing I've seen in this entire holiday season... but then, I do live in Los Angeles.

Hubble Heritage Team via ScienceNOW.