Cat's Paw Nebula (NGC 6334)

NGC 6334
NGC 6334: Galactic Nebula in Scorpius; Takahashi Sky 90mm; Reducer 407mm; Canon EOS 20Da; Vixen Sphinx; 302s; Namibia, Hakos Farm; © August 2005 Eduard von Bergen


The nebula was discovered by John Herschel on 7 June 1837, when he was in South Africa exploring the southern sky with his homemade 18¼ inch reflecting telescope. He catalogued the nebula as h 3678 or GC 4288, noting: «Extremely faint, very large, irregular considerably extended, very gradually little brighter following, stars of 8th magnitude involved.» [467] Dreyer then adopted the nebula including the description in 1888 as NGC 6334 in his «New General Catalogue». [313]

Thanks to its appearance, NGC 6334 later received the nickname «Cat's Paw Nebula» or more rarely «Bear Claw Nebula».

NGC 6334
NGC 6334: Infrared image of the Cat's Paw Nebula with ESO's VISTA survey telescope. [520]

Physical Properties

This is one of the most active star-forming regions, consisting of luminous H-II regions and dark clouds, which extends over almost 1° in the sky. It contains young, massive stars, up to ten times the mass of the Sun. [520] The distance is estimated to be about 1132 pc. [145]

Revised+Historic NGC/IC, Version 22/9, © Dr. Wolfgang Steinicke [277]
DesignationNGC 6334
Right Ascension17h 20m 48.0s
Declination-36° 06' 12"
Diameter35 × 20 arcmin
Metric Distance1.700 kpc
Dreyer DescriptioncF, vL, icE, vglbf, * 8 inv
Identification, RemarksESO 392-EN9, Sh2-8, CED 140

Finder Chart

The nebula NGC 6334 is located above scorpios sting in the constellation Scorpius. The best time to observe it is during the months of May to July, when this part of the constellation is highest above the southern horizon at night. An observation site with an unobstructed view to the south is required here, because the nebula has a declnination of -36° and rises just 11° above the horizon in Switzerland when it is in the meridian.

Chart Cat's Paw Nebula (NGC 6334)
Cat's Paw Nebula (NGC 6334) in constellation Scorpius. Chart created using SkySafari 6 Pro and STScI Digitized Sky Survey. [149, 160]

More Objects Nearby (±15°)


145SIMBAD astronomical database;
149SkySafari 6 Pro, Simulation Curriculum;
160The STScI Digitized Sky Survey;
277«Historische Deep-Sky Kataloge» von Dr. Wolfgang Steinicke; (2021-02-17)
313«A New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars, being the Catalogue of the late Sir John F.W. Herschel, Bart., revised, corrected, and enlarged» Dreyer, J. L. E. (1888); Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society. 49: 1–237; Bibcode:1888MmRAS..49....1D
467«Catalogue of nebulae and clusters of stars» John Frederick William Herschel, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1 January 1864; DOI:10.1098/rstl.1864.0001
520VISTA-Infrarotaufnahme des Katzenpfotennebels; (2022-06-07)