AIR SPACE

Spitzer's Space Revelations

The Spitzer Space Telescope is the final in NASA's Great Observatories Program -- a family of four space scopes, each watching a different kind of light in the universe.

Shrouded Starburst

A brilliant burst of star formation is revealed in this image combining observations from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes. The collision of two spiral galaxies, has triggered this luminous starburst, the brightest ever seen taking place far away from the centers, or nuclei, of merging galaxies.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Extragalactic Space Balls

For the first time, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected little spheres of carbon, called buckyballs, in a galaxy beyond our Milky Way galaxy. The space balls were detected in a dying star, called a planetary nebula, within the nearby galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. What's more, huge quantities were found -- the equivalent in mass to 15 of our moons.

An infrared photo of the Small Magellanic Cloud taken by Spitzer is shown here in this artist's illustration, with two callouts. The middle callout shows a magnified view of an example of a planetary nebula, and the right callout shows an even further magnified depiction of buckyballs, which consist of 60 carbon atoms arranged like soccer balls.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dusty Supernova

While searching the skies for black holes using the Spitzer Space Telescope Deep Wide Field Survey, Ohio State University astronomers discovered a giant supernova that was smothered in its own dust. In this artists rendering, an outer shell of gas and dust -- which erupted from the star hundreds of years ago -- obscures the supernova within. This event in a distant galaxy hints at one possible future for the brightest star system in our own Milky Way

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dusty Dead Star

A composite image from NASA's Chandra (blue) and Spitzer (green and red-yellow) space telescopes shows the dusty remains of a collapsed star, a supernova remnant called G54.1+0.3. The white source at the center is a dead star called a pulsar, generating a wind of high-energy particles seen by Chandra in blue. The wind expands into the surrounding environment. The infrared shell that surrounds the pulsar wind, seen in red, is made up of gas and dust that condensed out of debris from the supernova explosion. 

NASA/CXC/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Prehistoric Black Hole

This artist's conception illustrates one of the most primitive supermassive black holes known (central black dot) at the core of a young, star-rich galaxy. Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have uncovered two of these early objects, dating back to about 13 billion years ago.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC)

Galactic Metropolis

A surprisingly large collections of galaxies (red dots) stands out at a remarkably large distance in this composite image combining infrared and visible-light observations. Looking out to this distance, the cluster appears as it was 9.6 billion years ago, only about three billion years after the Big Bang. Astronomers were surprised to find such a "modern" cluster at an era when its peers tended to be much smaller, presumably taking billions of more years to collect enough galaxies to reach such a size.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Subaru/C. Papovich (Texas A&M Univ.)

Exotic Exoplanet

Models of planetary atmospheres indicate that any world with the common mix of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, and a temperature up to 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit should have a large amount of methane and a small amount of carbon monoxide. The planet illustrated here, called GJ 436b is about 980 degrees F -- it was expected to have methane but Spitzer's observations showed it does not ... demonstrating the diversity of exoplanets.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech)

Multispectral Galaxy

M33, one of our closest galactic neighbors, is about 2.9 million light-years away in the constellation Triangulum, part of what's known as our Local Group of galaxies. This image shows in amazing detail the beautiful and complicated interlacing of the heated dust and young stars. In some regions of M33, dust gathers where there is very little far-ultraviolet light, suggesting that the young stars are obscured or that stars farther away are heating the dust. In some of the outer regions of the galaxy, just the opposite is true: There are plenty of young stars and very little dust.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Pinwheel Galaxy

The tangled arms of the Pinwheel galaxy, otherwise known as Messier 101, are decked out in red in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The Pinwheel galaxy is located 27 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. It is what's called a flocculent spiral, which means that its spiral arms are not well defined.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dusty Beginnings of a Star

This artist's rendering gives us a glimpse into a cosmic nursery as a star is born from the dark, swirling dust and gas of this cloud. Stars form when dark dust from the cloud begins to clump together under the influence of its own gravity. The infalling material forms a disk as it spirals inward, which feeds material onto the forming star at its center. Jets of material that shoot from the inner disk and protostar herald its birth. Planets form out of the remnants of the disk of material that surrounds the infant star. 

Crab Nebula

A star's spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a super dense object -- called a neutron star -- left behind by the explosion is seen spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula. 

X-Ray: NASA/CXC/J.Hester (ASU); Optical: NASA/ESA/J.Hester & A.Loll (ASU); Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R.Gehrz (Univ. Minn.)

Mystery of the Fading Star

Every 27 years, a bright star called Epsilon Aurigae fades over period of two years, then brightens back up again, for reasons that remained unclear. The companion is known to be surrounded by a dusty disk, as illustrated in this artist's concept. Infrared images revealed the size of the dusty disk, and ruled out the theory that the main bright star is a supergiant. Instead, it is a bright star with a lot less mass. The new model also holds that the companion object is a so-called "B star" circled by a dusty disk.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech)

Protostar

A young protostar and its signature outflow peeks out through a shroud of dust in this infrared image. Stars are known to form from collapsing clumps of gas and dust, or envelopes, seen here around a forming star system as a dark blob, or shadow, against a dusty background. The greenish color shows jets coming away from the young star within. The envelope is roughly 100 times the size of our solar system.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Tobin (University of Michigan)

Exotic Atmospheres

This artist's concept shows a cloudy Jupiter-like planet that orbits very close to its fiery hot star. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope was recently used to capture spectra, or molecular fingerprints, of two "hot Jupiter" worlds like the one depicted here. This is the first time a spectrum has ever been obtained for an exoplanet, or a planet beyond our solar system.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

Coiled Creature of the Night

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged a wild creature of the dark -- a coiled galaxy with an eye-like object at its center. The galaxy, called NGC 1097, is located 50 million light-years away. It is spiral-shaped like our Milky Way, with long, spindly arms of stars. The "eye" at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/The SINGS Team (SSC/Caltech)

Little Galaxy, Explored

The Small Magellanic Cloud is a nearby satellite galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy, approximately 200,000 light-years away. The image shows the main body of the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is comprised of the "bar" on the left and a "wing" extending to the right. The bar contains both old stars (in blue) and young stars lighting up their natal dust (green/red).

NASA/JPL-Caltech/K. Gordon (STScI)

Celestial Sea of Stars

The choppy star-making cloud called M17, also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula, is located about 6,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. It's dominated by a central group of massive stars -- the most massive stars in the region (see yellow circle). These central stars give off intense flows of expanding gas, which rush like rivers against dense piles of material, carving out the deep pocket at center of the picture. Winds from the region's other massive stars push back against these oncoming rivers, creating bow shocks like those that pile up in front of speeding boats.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Povich (Univ. of Wisconsin)

Spitzer's Space Revelations

The Spitzer Space Telescope is the final in NASA's Great Observatories Program -- a family of four space scopes, each watching a different kind of light in the universe.

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