IC 2944 is a star-forming region and emission nebula located 6,000 lightyears away in the constellation Centaurus.
The nebula spans 100 lightyears across and is also known as the Running Chicken Nebula, due to its apparent similarity in appearance to a cosmic chicken running across the deep sky. Perhaps it’s being chased by the Running Man Nebula!
Whether or not there is indeed a similarity between the nebula and scurrying poultry, the name has stuck, making IC 2944 another addition to the list of nebulae that look like animals.
The reddish glow that can be seen in many images of IC 2944 is typical of emission nebulae, as newborn stars blast surrounding cosmic gas with radiation, causing it to glow.
The Running Chicken Nebula is also well-known because of a feature known as Thackeray’s Globules, which are named after British astronomer Andrew David Thackeray who observed them in 1950.
These are a type of small dark nebula called Bok globules, which are small clouds of gas and dust so dense they block out optical light.
Below is a selection of images of IC 2944 captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers.