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Explaining That “Cosmic Ice Sculptures” Photo

You may have seen this image in your Facebook feed or some other internet forum. Or maybe an email from your aunt Gladys. The caption is usually something along the lines of

“Via Hubble: The cosmic "ice sculptures" of the Carina Nebula. Scientists are still trying to explain the beautiful spires.”

But it’s not. Yes, it’s an astronomy image, but it wasn’t taken by Hubble, isn’t the Carina Nebula, and the original doesn’t quite look like that. The finished image is an artwork by Adam Ferriss, who never intended it to be construed as anything else. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait tells the story of a neat image manipulation that took on a fictional life of its own. It’s an example the many things on the internet that turn out to be something other than what it claims, while the true story behind them is interesting anyway.

(Image credit: OmegaCen/Astro-WISE/Kapteyn Institute/Adam Ferriss)


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