NASA Retires Spitzer Space Telescope, Infrared Explorer

Approximately 100 million years ago, a smaller galaxy plunged through the heart of the Cartwheel galaxy, creating ripples of brief star formation. This composite image includes data from NASA’s Spitzer, Hubble, GALEX and Chandra observatories.

Located 1,500 light-years from Earth, the Orion nebula is the brightest spot in the sword of the constellation Orion. Both NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes contributed to this vibrant image. Four massive stars, collectively called the Trapezium, appear as a yellow smudge near the image center. Visible and ultraviolet data from Hubble appear as swirls of green that indicate the presence of gas heated by intense ultraviolet radiation from the Trapezium’s stars. Less-embedded stars appear as specks of green, and foreground stars as blue spots. Meanwhile, Spitzer’s infrared view exposes carbon-rich molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, shown here as wisps of red and orange. Orange-yellow dots are infant stars deeply embedded in cocoons of dust and gas.

Located about 700 light-years from Earth, the eye-like Helix nebula is a planetary nebula, or the remains of a Sun-like star. When these stars run out of their internal fuel supply, their outer layers puff up to create the nebula. The nebula is heated by the hot core of the dead star, called a white dwarf, which is not visible in this image but is located in the middle of the "eye." Our Sun will blossom into a planetary nebula when it dies in about 5 billion years.

This view of the North America nebula combines visible light collected by the Digitized Sky Survey with infrared light from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Blue hues represent visible light, while infrared is displayed as red and green. Clusters of young stars (about 1 million years old) can be found throughout the image. Slightly older but still very young stars (about 3 to 5 million years) are also liberally scattered across the complex.

This image of Messier 101, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy or M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from Spitzer and three other NASA space telescopes: Hubble, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer’s Far Ultraviolet detector (GALEX) and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The galaxy is about 70% larger than our own Milky Way, with a diameter of about 170,000 light-years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light-years from Earth.

New Chandra observations have been used to make the first detection of X-ray emission from young stars with masses similar to our Sun outside our Milky Way galaxy. The Chandra observations of these low-mass stars were made of the region known as the "Wing" of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), one of the Milky Way’s closest galactic neighbors. In this composite image of the Wing, the Chandra data is shown in purple, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope is shown in red, green, and blue and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is shown in red.

This infrared image of the galaxy Messier 81, or M81, reveals lanes of dust illuminated by active star formation throughout the galaxy’s spiral arms. Located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (which includes the Big Dipper), M81 is also about 12 million light-years from Earth.

The bright star at the center of this image is Eta Carinae, one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way galaxy. With around 100 times the mass of the Sun and at least 1 million times the brightness, Eta Carinae releases a tremendous outflow of energy that has eroded the surrounding nebula. Spitzer’s infrared vision lets us see the dust, shown in red, as well as clouds of hot, glowing gas, which appear green.

This cloud of gas and dust in space is full of bubbles inflated by wind and radiation from massive young stars. Each bubble is about 10 to 30 light-years across and filled with hundreds to thousands of stars. The region lies in the Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation Aquila (aka the Eagle).

This Spitzer image shows the giant star Zeta Ophiuchi and the bow shock, or shock wave, in front of it. Visible only in infrared light, the bow shock is created by winds that flow from the star, making ripples in the surrounding dust. Located roughly 370 light-years from Earth, Zeta Ophiuchi dwarfs our Sun: It is about six times hotter, eight times wider, 20 times more massive and about 80,000 times as bright. Even at its great distance, it would be one of the brightest stars in the sky were it not largely obscured by dust clouds.

Approximately 100 million years ago, a smaller galaxy plunged through the heart of the Cartwheel galaxy, creating ripples of brief star formation. This composite image includes data from NASA’s Spitzer, Hubble, GALEX and Chandra observatories.

Located 1,500 light-years from Earth, the Orion nebula is the brightest spot in the sword of the constellation Orion. Both NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes contributed to this vibrant image. Four massive stars, collectively called the Trapezium, appear as a yellow smudge near the image center. Visible and ultraviolet data from Hubble appear as swirls of green that indicate the presence of gas heated by intense ultraviolet radiation from the Trapezium’s stars. Less-embedded stars appear as specks of green, and foreground stars as blue spots. Meanwhile, Spitzer’s infrared view exposes carbon-rich molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, shown here as wisps of red and orange. Orange-yellow dots are infant stars deeply embedded in cocoons of dust and gas.

Located about 700 light-years from Earth, the eye-like Helix nebula is a planetary nebula, or the remains of a Sun-like star. When these stars run out of their internal fuel supply, their outer layers puff up to create the nebula. The nebula is heated by the hot core of the dead star, called a white dwarf, which is not visible in this image but is located in the middle of the "eye." Our Sun will blossom into a planetary nebula when it dies in about 5 billion years.

This view of the North America nebula combines visible light collected by the Digitized Sky Survey with infrared light from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Blue hues represent visible light, while infrared is displayed as red and green. Clusters of young stars (about 1 million years old) can be found throughout the image. Slightly older but still very young stars (about 3 to 5 million years) are also liberally scattered across the complex.

This image of Messier 101, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy or M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from Spitzer and three other NASA space telescopes: Hubble, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer’s Far Ultraviolet detector (GALEX) and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The galaxy is about 70% larger than our own Milky Way, with a diameter of about 170,000 light-years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light-years from Earth.

New Chandra observations have been used to make the first detection of X-ray emission from young stars with masses similar to our Sun outside our Milky Way galaxy. The Chandra observations of these low-mass stars were made of the region known as the "Wing" of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), one of the Milky Way’s closest galactic neighbors. In this composite image of the Wing, the Chandra data is shown in purple, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope is shown in red, green, and blue and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is shown in red.

This infrared image of the galaxy Messier 81, or M81, reveals lanes of dust illuminated by active star formation throughout the galaxy’s spiral arms. Located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (which includes the Big Dipper), M81 is also about 12 million light-years from Earth.

The bright star at the center of this image is Eta Carinae, one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way galaxy. With around 100 times the mass of the Sun and at least 1 million times the brightness, Eta Carinae releases a tremendous outflow of energy that has eroded the surrounding nebula. Spitzer’s infrared vision lets us see the dust, shown in red, as well as clouds of hot, glowing gas, which appear green.

This cloud of gas and dust in space is full of bubbles inflated by wind and radiation from massive young stars. Each bubble is about 10 to 30 light-years across and filled with hundreds to thousands of stars. The region lies in the Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation Aquila (aka the Eagle).

This Spitzer image shows the giant star Zeta Ophiuchi and the bow shock, or shock wave, in front of it. Visible only in infrared light, the bow shock is created by winds that flow from the star, making ripples in the surrounding dust. Located roughly 370 light-years from Earth, Zeta Ophiuchi dwarfs our Sun: It is about six times hotter, eight times wider, 20 times more massive and about 80,000 times as bright. Even at its great distance, it would be one of the brightest stars in the sky were it not largely obscured by dust clouds.


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