Is space on FIRE? NASA’s Spitzer Telescope captures a massive collection of glowing gas and dust

Is space on FIRE? NASA’s Spitzer Telescope captures a massive collection of glowing gas and dust that stretches over 500 light-years across

  • NASA’s Spitzer Telescope captured an image of the Perseus Molecular Cloud that looks like flames in space
  • The cloud consists of a massive collection of warm gas and dust that stretches 500 light-years across
  • It contains 10,000 solar masses of gas and dust is home to numerous young stars

By Stacy Liberatore For Dailymail.com

Published: | Updated:

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NASA’s Spitzer Telescope captured an image of what looks like flames ripping through the black void of space.

The picture highlights the Perseus Molecular Cloud, which is a massive collection of gas and dust that stretches over 500 light-years across.

The fiery glow is a result of infrared radiation from warm dust and clusters of stars that ‘illuminate the surrounding clouds like the Sun lighting up a cloudy sky at sunset.’

The Perseus Molecular Cloud is home to an abundance of young stars and is located on the edge of the Perseus Constellation.

It contains over 10,000 solar masses of gas and dust covering an area of size by two degrees.

The infrared light emitted from the gas and stars is invisible to the human eye but, Spitzer is designed to capture the illumination of warm objects.

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NASA’s Spitzer Telescope captured an image of what looks like flames ripping through the black void of space. The picture highlights the Perseus Molecular Cloud, which is a massive collection of gas and dust that stretches over 500 light-years across

To the right of this massive cloud sits a bright group of young stars known as NGC 1333 that is 1,000 light-years from Earth.

This clump of starts have been observed by astronomers since the mid-1980s, but underneath it lies clusters that still remain a mystery.

‘They appear to contain stellar infants, adolescents and adults. Such a closely packed mixture of ages is extremely odd,’ according to Luisa Rebull, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Infrared Science

‘Archive at Caltech-IPAC who has studied NGC 1333 and some of the clusters below it.’

The fiery glow is a result of infrared radiation from warm dust and clusters of stars that ‘illuminate the surrounding clouds like the Sun lighting up a cloudy sky at sunset.’ The Perseus Molecular Cloud is home to an abundance of young stars and is located on the edge of the Perseus Constellation

To the right of this massive cloud sits a bright group of young stars known as NGC 1333 that is 1,000 light-years from Earth. This clump of starts have been observed by astronomers since the mid-1980s, but underneath it lies clusters that still remain a mystery

‘Although many stellar siblings may form together in tight clusters, stars are always moving, and as they grow older they tend to move farther and farther apart.’

Finding such a closely packed mixture of apparent ages doesn’t fit with current ideas about how stars evolve.

‘This region is telling astronomers that there’s something we don’t understand about star formation,’ said Rebull.

‘The puzzle presented by this region is one thing that keeps astronomers coming back to it. ‘It’s one of my favorite regions to study.’

Since IRAS’s early observations, the region has come into clearer focus, a process that is common in astronomy, said Rebull. 

New instruments bring more sensitivity and new techniques, and the story becomes clearer with each new generation of observatories. 

On Jan. 30, 2020, NASA will decommission the Spitzer Space Telescope, but its legacy has paved the way for upcoming observatories, including the James Webb Space Telescope, which will also observe infrared light.

The Spitzer-MIPS data used for this image is at the infrared wavelength of 24 microns. 

Small gaps along the edges of this image not observed by Spitzer were filled in using 22-micron data from NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).

WHAT IS THE SPRITZER SPACE TELESCOPE?

The Spitzer Space Telescope – formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility – is an infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope.

It consists of a space-borne, cryogenically cooled telescope with lightweight optics that deliver light to advanced, large-format infrared detector arrays 

It is capable of studying objects ranging from our solar system to the distant reaches of the universe. 

Peering back into the early universe, it looks at young galaxies and forming stars.

The Spitzer Space Telescope – formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility – is an infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope (artist’s impression). The band of light in this image is the glowing dust from the Milky Way seen at 100 microns

It is also used to detect dust disks around stars, considered an important signpost of planetary formation.

The mission is the fourth and final observatory under NASA’s Great Observatories program.

This mission also includes the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.  

It was launched into orbit around the sun, trailing behind Earth, drifting in a benign thermal environment.

By using this orbit, the spacecraft is able to adopt an innovative “warm-launch” architecture, in which only the instrument payload is cooled at launch. 

By using special cooling in deep space, Spitzer is able to carry far less liquid helium than any previous infrared mission, which substantially reduces mission development costs.

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