1000 days of infrared wonders

Apr 16, 2012
IRAC not only probes what is known - it also has uncovered some mysterious objects like this so-called "tornado" nebula. Because the camera is sensitive to light emitted from shocked molecular hydrogen (seen here in green), astronomers think that this strange beast is the result of an outflowing jet of material from a young star that has generated shock waves in surrounding gas and dust. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / J. Bally (University of Colorado)

(Phys.org) -- For the last 1000 days the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), aboard NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, has been operating continuously to probe the universe from its most distant regions to our local solar neighborhood. The IRAC "warm" program began once Spitzer used up its liquid helium coolant, thus completing its "cold" mission. To commemorate 1000 days of infrared wonders, the program is releasing a gallery of the 10 best IRAC images.

"IRAC continues to be an amazing camera, still producing important discoveries and spectacular new images of the infrared universe," said principal investigator Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The warm-mission images particularly highlight the continuing capabilities of Spitzer. Indeed, NASA's Senior Review Panel has recommended extending the Spitzer warm mission through 2015. They specifically commended the Spitzer team for telescope improvements that have made it a powerful instrument for science, especially in exoplanet studies.

After a long life of hydrogen-burning nuclear fusion, stars move into later life states whose details depend on their masses. This IRAC image of the Helix Nebula barely spots the star itself at the center, but clearly shows how the aging star has ejected material into space around it, creating a "planetary nebula." The Helix Nebula is located 650 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. This image was taken during Spitzer's warm mission. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / J. Hora (CfA) & W. Latter (NASA/Herschel)

IRAC is sensitive to infrared light - light beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. It can image nebulae of cold dust, peer inside obscured dust clouds where new stars are forming, and detect faint emissions from very distant galaxies.

During its 1000-day undertaking, IRAC used its two shortest-wavelength infrared sensors. However, some of the images featured today include data collected during the cold mission, when all four of its infrared sensors could function.

The famous nebula in Orion, located about 1,340 light-years from Earth, is actively making new stars today. Although the optical nebula is dominated by the light from four massive, hot young stars, IRAC reveals many other young stars still embedded in their dusty womb. It also finds a long filament of star-forming activity containing thousands of young protostars. Some of these stars may host still-forming planets. This image was taken during Spitzer's warm mission. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Toledo

The top 10 IRAC images the team selected are:

-- A "space tornado"

-- The Orion Nebula

-- The

-- The Trifid Nebula

-- The "Mountains of Creation"

-- A young star cluster

-- Our

-- The

-- The Sombrero galaxy

-- The young, distant universe

Explore further: Image: Multicoloured view of supernova remnant

More information: Many additional images from Spitzer can be found online at www.spitzer.caltech.edu/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spitzer Reveals New Wonders in the Familiar Orion Nebula

Aug 15, 2006

The Orion nebula is one of the most famous and easily viewed deep-sky sights. Located in the sword of Orion the Hunter, this distant cloud of gas and dust holds hundreds of young stars. At its center, a cluster ...

'Big baby' galaxy found in newborn Universe

Sep 28, 2005

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have teamed up to 'weigh' the stars in distant galaxies. One of these galaxies is not only one of the most distant ever seen, but it appears to be unusually ...

Space Image: North American Nebula

Oct 19, 2011

This swirling landscape of stars is known as the North America Nebula. In visible light, the region resembles North America, but in this image infrared view from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the continent ...

Seeing the Cosmos Through 'Warm' Infrared Eyes

Aug 05, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has taken its first shots of the cosmos since warming up and starting its second career. The infrared telescope ran out of coolant on May 15, 2009, more than ...

Making a spectacle of star formation in Orion

Jun 30, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Looking like a pair of eyeglasses only a rock star would wear, this nebula brings into focus a murky region of star formation. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope exposes the depths of this dusty ...

Recommended for you

Image: Multicoloured view of supernova remnant

5 hours ago

Most celestial events unfold over thousands of years or more, making it impossible to follow their evolution on human timescales. Supernovas are notable exceptions, the powerful stellar explosions that make ...

Ultra-luminous X-ray sources in starburst galaxies

5 hours ago

Ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULXs) are point sources in the sky that are so bright in X-rays that each emits more radiation than a million suns emit at all wavelengths. ULXs are rare. Most galaxies (including ...

When a bright light fades

6 hours ago

Astronomer Charles Telesco is primarily interested in the creation of planets and stars. So, when the University of Florida's giant telescope was pointed at a star undergoing a magnificent and explosive death, ...

Image: Horsehead nebula viewed in infrared

6 hours ago

Sometimes a horse of a different color hardly seems to be a horse at all, as, for example, in this newly released image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The famous Horsehead nebula makes a ghostly appearance ...

The Milky Way's new neighbour

6 hours ago

The Milky Way, the galaxy we live in, is part of a cluster of more than 50 galaxies that make up the 'Local Group', a collection that includes the famous Andromeda galaxy and many other far smaller objects. ...

Image: Hubble sweeps a messy star factory

6 hours ago

This sprinkle of cosmic glitter is a blue compact dwarf galaxy known as Markarian 209. Galaxies of this type are blue-hued, compact in size, gas-rich, and low in heavy elements. They are often used by astronomers ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.