Seeing the Cosmos Through 'Warm' Infrared Eyes

Aug 05, 2009
These images are some of the first to be taken during Spitzer's warm mission -- a new phase that began after the telescope, which operated for more than five-and-a-half years, ran out of liquid coolant. The pictures were snapped with the two infrared channels that still work at Spitzer's still-quite-chilly temperature of 30 Kelvin (about minus 406 degrees Fahrenheit). The two infrared channels are part of Spitzer's infrared array camera: 3.6-micron light is blue and 4.5-micron light is orange. The main picture shows a cloud, known as DR22, bursting with new stars in the Cygnus region of the sky. Spitzer's infrared eyes can see dust, and see through dust, giving it a unique view into star-forming nests. The blue areas are dusty clouds, and the orange is mainly hot gas. The picture at upper right shows a relatively calm galaxy called NGC 4145. This galaxy has already made most of its stars and has little star-forming activity. It is located 68 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. Blue shows starlight and dust. The final picture at lower right shows a dying star called NGC 4361. This star was once a lot like our sun, before it evolved and puffed out its outer layers. The object, called a planetary nebula, is unusual in that it has four lobes, or jets, of ejected material instead of the standard two. Astronomers suspect that there might be two dying stars inside the nebula, each producing a bipolar jet. Orange primarily shows heated gas. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(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 five-and-half-years after launch, and has since warmed to a still-frosty 30 Kelvin (about minus 406 Fahrenheit).

New images taken with two of Spitzer's infrared detector channels -- the two that work at the new warmer temperature -- demonstrate that the observatory remains a powerful tool for probing the dusty universe. The images show a bustling star-forming region, the pretty remains of a star like the sun, and a swirling galaxy lined with stars.

"Spitzer continues to provide us with a unique view of stars, and ," said Spitzer Project Scientist Michael Werner, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"We're thrilled to see Spitzer up and running again, and continuing to provide such spectacular images," added astronomer Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "This new lease on life is a testament to a well-designed spacecraft."

The first of three images shows a cloud bursting with stars in the Cygnus region of our . Spitzer's infrared eyes both peer through and see dust, revealing young stars tucked in dusty nests. A second image shows a nearby dying star -- a called NGC 4361 -- whose outer layers expand outward in the rare form of four jets. And a final picture is of a classic spiral beauty, a galaxy called NGC 4145 located 68 million light-years from Earth.

"With Spitzer's remaining shorter-wavelength bands, we can continue to see through the dust in galaxies and get a better look at the overall populations of stars," said Robert Hurt imaging specialist for Spitzer at NASA's Spitzer Science Center, California Institute of Technology. "All stars are equal in the infrared."

Since its launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on August 25, 2003, Spitzer has made countless discoveries: planet-forming disks around stars, the composition of the material making up comets, hidden black holes, galaxies billions of light-years away and more.

Perhaps the most revolutionary and surprising Spitzer finds involve planets around other , called exoplanets. In 2005, Spitzer detected the first actual photons of light from an exoplanet. In a clever technique, now referred to as the secondary-eclipse method, Spitzer was able to collect the light of a hot, gaseous exoplanet and learn about its temperature. Further detailed studies later revealed more about the composition and structure of the atmospheres of these exotic worlds.

Warm Spitzer will address many of the same science questions as before, while tackling new projects, such as: refining estimates of Hubble's constant, or the rate at which our universe is stretching apart; searching for galaxies at the edge of the universe; characterizing more than 700 near-Earth objects, or asteroids and comets with orbits that pass close to our planet; and studying the atmospheres of gas-giant planets expected to be discovered soon by NASA's Kepler mission. As was true during the cold Spitzer mission, these and the other programs are selected via a competition in which scientists from around the world are invited to participate.

Spitzer officially began its warm science mission on July 27, 2009. The new pictures were taken while the telescope was being re-commissioned, on July 18 (NGC 4145, NGC 4361) and July 21 (Cygnus).

More information: For more information about Spitzer, visit www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer .

Provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (news : web)

Explore further: The hot blue stars of Messier 47

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spitzer Telescope Warms Up to New Career

May 06, 2009

The primary mission of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is about to end after more than five and a half years of probing the cosmos with its keen infrared eye. Within about a week of May 12, the telescope is ...

Spitzer Witnessed Galactic Collision

Sep 10, 2004

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has set its infrared sight on a major galactic collision and witnessed not death, but a teeming nest of life. The colliding galaxies, called the Antennae galaxies, are in the ...

Spitzer Harvests Dozens of New Stars

Nov 16, 2005

Just in time for Thanksgiving, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has harvested a bounty of young stars. A new infrared image of the reflection nebula NGC 1333, located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the ...

Mysterious Ring When Star Dies

Aug 10, 2004

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the shimmering embers of a dying star, and in their midst a mysterious doughnut-shaped ring. "Spitzer's infrared vision has revealed what could not be see ...

Spitzer Turns Two

Aug 26, 2005

Two years ago today, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope blasted into the same dark skies it now better understands. In just two years, the observatory's infrared eyes have uncovered a hidden universe teeming with ...

Recommended for you

The hot blue stars of Messier 47

Dec 17, 2014

Messier 47 is located approximately 1600 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Puppis (the poop deck of the mythological ship Argo). It was first noticed some time before 1654 by Italian astronomer ...

Why is space black?

Dec 16, 2014

Imagine you're in space. Just the floating part, not the peeing into a vacuum hose or eating that funky "ice cream" from foil bags part. If you looked at the Sun, it would be bright and your retinas would ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2009
OBSERVATIONS WITH SPITZER

Spitzer's infrared detector will provide new information on sources of heat in the cosmos.

However, these observations cannot compensate for NASA's reluctance to study, consider, and accept or reject several reports since 2001 that the Sun, stars, galaxies, and the cosmos are heated by repulsive interactions between neutrons [1-4].

The results will be as useless as reports of climate change that ignore cyclic changes in Earth's heat source - the Sun [5].

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://www.omatumr.com

1. "Attraction and repulsion of nucleons: Sources of stellar energy", Journal of Fusion Energy 19 (2001) 93-98: http://tinyurl.com/mmvomk

2. "Nuclear systematics: III. The source of solar luminosity", Journal of Radioanalytical & Nuclear Chemistry 252 (2002) 3-7: http://tinyurl.com/n99jvr

3. "Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source", Journal of Fusion Energy 20 (2003) 197-201: http://tinyurl.com/mw7mhu

4. "Fingerprints of a local supernova," in SPACE EXPLORATION RESEARCH (Nova Science Publishers, Inc., Hauppauge, NY, in press, 38 pp, 2009); ISBN: 978-1-60692-264-4: http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0684

5. "EARTH'S HEAT SOURCE - THE SUN", Energy and Environment: SPECIAL ISSUE: Natural drivers of weather and climate, volume 20, numbers 1 & 2, pp. 131-144 (2009): http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

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.