From WIRED: “Space Photos of the Week: Reading the Universe in Infrared”

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From WIRED

Telescopes that see things in a different spectrum show us the hidden secrets of the stars.

The human eye can process light wavelengths in the range of 380 to 740 nanometers. However, there’s a whole swath of “light” that we are unable to see. Cue the fancy telescopes! This week we are going to look at photos of space that are filtered for the infrared—wavelengths from 700 nanometers to 1 millimeter in size. By filtering for infrared scientists are able to peer through the visible stuff that gets in the way, like gas and dust and other material, to see heat, and in space there’s a lot of hot stuff. This is why NASA has telescopes like Spitzer that orbit the Earth looking at the universe in infrared, showing us stuff our puny eyes could never see on their own.

NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

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Here’s a space photo cool enough to make Andy Warhol proud: This four-part series shows the Whirlpool galaxy and its partner up above, a satellite galaxy called NGC 5195. This series serves as a good example of how different features can appear when cameras filter for different wavelengths of light. The far left image is taken in visible light, a remarkable scene even though the galaxy is more than 23 million light years from Earth. The second image adds a little extra: Visible light is shown in blue and green, and the bright red streaks are infrared—revealing new star activity and hot ionized material.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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This infrared image of the Orion nebula allows astronomers to see dust that’s aglow from star formation. The central light-blue region is the hottest part of the nebula, and as the byproducts of the star factory are ejected out, they cool off and appear red.Photograph: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Cygnus X is a ginormous star complex containing around 3 million solar masses and also is one of the largest known protostar factories. This image shows CygnusX in infrared light, glowing hot. The bright white spots are where stars are forming, with the red tendrils showing the gas and dust being expelled after their births.Photograph: NASA Goddard

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This may appear like a scary pit of magma, we’re in fact looking at the Whirlpool galaxy seen earlier. By filtering out visible light and showing only the near-infrared, researchers can see the skeletal structure of the center of the galaxy, made of bending smooth dust lanes. This dust clumps around stars, so an image like this can give researchers a good idea of how much dust is lingering in a galaxy.Photograph: NASA Goddard

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Talk about a butterfly effect: This space oddity is actually a busy stellar nursery called W40. The butterfly “wings” are large bubbles of hot interstellar gas blowing out from the violent births of these stars. Some stars in this region are so large they are 10 times the mass of our Sun.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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At the center of our Milky Way galaxy is the galactic core, glowing brightly with the many stars located there. Unencumbered by all the gas and dust, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope reveals the red glow of hot ionized material. In addition to a wealth of stars, the center of our galaxy boasts a massive black hole, 4 million times the mass of our Sun. As stars pass by this behemoth, they get devoured and hot energy is spat out—and that radiance helps us know what’s cooking in this active area.Photograph: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Susan Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) et al.

Want to see things in a different light? Check out WIRED’s full collection of photos here.

See the full article here .

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