See the Cosmos Through Warmer Eyes

This spring, the Spitzer Space Telescope exhausted its supply of coolant, causing its infrared camera to warm. But the Spitzer Mission goes on, capturing dying and newly forming stars with less chilly eyes.

After more than five years in orbit, the Spitzer Telescope ran out of the liquid helium that cools its cameras. And, while 30 Kelvin is a bit too balmy for some of the camera's modules, the two shortest wavelength modules are still operable, allowing the mission to continue and capturing a different view of the cosmos.

The first image is DR22, a cloud in the Cygnus region. The warm camera sees the dust as well as through the dust, reading the dusty clouds as blue and the hot gas as orange. The second is the galaxy NGC 4145, which has little star-forming activity and shows up as blue due to starlight and dust. This contrasts with the final picture, of the planetary nebula NGC 4361, which appears orange because of the heated gas and may contain a pair of dying stars.


[Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics via Science Codex]


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