The Witch’s Head Nebula
A billowing cloud of stellar gas draws the silhouette of a witch’s scraggly face, probably scheming up some evil plan for a world light years from here.
NASA’s WISE instrument captured this boo-tiful birthplace of stars glowing with infrared light, and spooky science wizards here on Earth colored it to look a bit like the Wicked Witch of the West (the mean, warty, aquaphobic one from the 1939 film, not nice ol’ Elphaba Thropp). Which is odd, because Orion, where the Witch’s Nebula resides, rises in the east this time of year.
This is another example of astronomical pareidolia, in which our pattern-addicted brains look for shapes where there is only randomness, like the constellations themselves, only a result of being a planet that sits just right here. The most famous example is the “face in Mars” (which is not a face at all, but an oddly shadowed plateau):
I mean, that’s all it is, right? Just pareidolia? And not a witch?