The Spitzer Space Telescope Captures Huge Star Factory

spitzer data

The biggest stars in the Universe are formed inside cosmic clouds of dust and gas, where they can leave some clues about their evolution and features for astronomers to find. 

The nebula W51 is considered one of the most active-star producing areas in the Milky Way. It was discovered back in 1958 by radio telescopes. When viewed in infrared by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, W51 is a fantastic view. Here is what you need to know.

W51 Features and Other Significant Details Revealed

W51 is situated approximately 17,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Aquila’s direction in the night sky. It is also almost invisible to telescopes that gather visible light because that light is blocked by interstellar dust clouds placed between W51 and our planet. 

However, longer wavelengths of light, such as infrared and radio, can pass easily through the dust. And when observed in infrared by Spitzer, W51 is a fantastic sight. Its total infrared emission reaches the equivalent of 20 million Suns. 

“Star factories like this one can run for millions of years. The dark red region on the right side of W51 is more ancient, due to the way winds have already carved it out from generations of giant stars. The gas and dust in the area are swept around, even more, when those stars collapse and blast as supernovae.

Many stars are starting to clear away the dust and gas in a similar to older stars on the nebula’s younger left part. It’s somehow apparent that many of these newborn stars are creating bubbles of space around themselves. 

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope began its mission 17 years ago. The spacecraft was retired this year. Though the mission has been done, Spitzer’s full body of scientific data during its lifetime is available now to the public at the Infrared Science Archive at IPAC at Caltech, Pasadena, California. 

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