Check out this startlingly beautiful image of The Unicorn's Rose, a rosette nebula located within the Unicorn constellation. NASA's WISE telescope, which captured this image, has sadly run out of the coolant it needs to continue making such arresting images.
It's always sad when a great artist gets too hot under the collar. NASA launched the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer last December, and since then the camera has captured over 1.8 million images in four different infrared wavelenths. But now, the camera's used up all the coolant to keep its infrared detectors chilled to their optimal temperature. In its short career, WISE has detected 19 comets, and more than 33,500 asteroids — including 120 near-Earth objects.
But WISE's mission isn't quite over — two out of its four infrared detectors still work at warmer temperatures, so the camera can use them to keep looking for asteroids and comets closer to Earth. In the meantime, here are our favorite WISE images that NASA has released so far — all captions are quotes from the NASA web site. [NASA via The Register]
The Unicorn's Rose
A new image taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE) shows the Rosette nebula located within the constellation Monoceros, or the Unicorn.
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Omega Centauri NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has captured a favorite observing target of amateur astronomers — Omega Centauri.
E Reveals a Hidden Star Cluster
The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has seen a cluster of newborn stars enclosed in a cocoon of dust and gas in the constellation Camelopardalis.
In the Grip of the Scorpion's Claw
Gripped in the claw of the constellation Scorpius sits the reflection nebula DG 129, a cloud of gas and dust that reflects light from nearby, bright stars.
This image from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows the nearby galaxy Messier 83, or M83 for short. This is a spiral galaxy approximately 15 million light-years away.
NGC 6744 – A Sibling of the Milky Way
This image of spiral galaxy NGC 6744 from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a mosaic of frames covering an area three full moons tall and three full moons wide (1.56 by 1.56 degrees). It is located in a constellation in the southern sky, Pavo, which is Latin for peacock.
There are relatively few large spiral galaxies in the local universe (within about 40 million light-years of our Local Group of galaxies). NGC 6744 is about 30 million light-years away and, compared to other local galaxies, is very similar to our Milky Way galaxy. In fact, if there are observers somewhere in this sibling galaxy looking back at the Milky Way, they might see a very similar image.
Seagull Nebula — Running with the Big Dog
The Seagull nebula, seen in this infrared mosaic from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, draws its common name from it resemblance to a gull in flight.
A leggy cosmic creature comes out of hiding in this new infrared view from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The spiral beauty, called IC 342 and sometimes the "hidden galaxy," is shrouded behind our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Stargazers and professional astronomers have a hard time seeing the galaxy through the Milky Way's bright band of stars, dust and gas. WISE's infrared vision cuts through this veil, offering a crisp view.
In a spiral galaxy like IC 342, dust and gas are concentrated in the arms. The denser pockets of gas trigger the formation of new stars, as represented here in green and yellow. The core, shown in red, is also bursting with young stars, which are heating up dust. Stars that appear blue reside within our Milky Way, between us and IC 342.
The immense Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or simply M31, is captured in full in this new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The mosaic covers an area equivalent to more than 100 full moons, or five degrees across the sky. WISE used all four of its infrared detectors to capture this picture (3.4- and 4.6-micron light is colored blue; 12-micron light is green; and 22-micron light is red). Blue highlights mature stars, while yellow and red show dust heated by newborn, massive stars.
This image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, highlights the dust that speckles the Andromeda galaxy's spiral arms. It shows light seen by the longest-wavelength infrared detectors on WISE (12-micron light has been color coded orange, and 22-micron light, red).
The hot dust, which is being heated by newborn stars, traces the spidery arms all the way to the center of the galaxy. Telltale signs of young stars can also be seen in the centers of Andromeda's smaller companion galaxies, M32 and M110.
The Heart and Soul nebulae are seen in this infrared mosaic from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The image covers an area of the sky over ten times as wide as the full moon and eight times as high (5.5 x 3.9 degrees) in the constellation Cassiopeia.
Located about 6,000 light-years from Earth, the Heart and Soul nebulae form a vast star-forming complex that makes up part of the Perseus spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy. The nebula to the right is the Heart, designated IC 1805 and named after its resemblance to a human heart. To the left is the Soul nebula, also known as the Embryo nebula, IC 1848 or W5. The Perseus arm lies further from the center of the Milky Way than the arm that contains our sun. The Heart and Soul nebulae stretch out nearly 580 light-years across, covering a small portion of the diameter of the Milky Way, which is roughly 100,000 light-years across.
The two nebulae are both massive star-making factories, marked by giant bubbles that were blown into surrounding dust by radiation and winds from the stars. WISE's infrared vision allows it to see into the cooler and dustier crevices of clouds like these, where gas and dust are just beginning to collect into new stars. These stars are less than a few million of years old — youngsters in comparison to stars like the sun, which is nearly 5 billion years old.
New stars are forming inside this giant cloud of dust and gas as seen in infrared light by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. Sprawling across the constellation Vela is a complex of dark, dense clouds of dust and gas, difficult to detect with telescopes that see only visible light. The complex is called the Vela Molecular Cloud Ridge. This ridge may form part of the edge of the Orion spiral arm spur in our Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers mapping out the region in radio light in the late 1980s found four distinct regions of the densest gas and named them clouds A, B, C and D. This image takes in the first of those clouds, Vela A.
Vela A is about 3,300 light-years away. This image of Vela A covers a region on the sky over 4.5 full moons wide and over 3 full moons tall, spanning about 130 light-years in space. The core of the cloud is being excavated by the radiation and winds from hot, young stars. The energy from the new stars is absorbed by the surrounding dust. This hides them from view in visible light, but the heated dust glows in infrared light (seen here in green and red). Sprinkled around Vela A are a few groups of sources that appear very red in this image, and have no known counterparts in visible-light images of the region. It's possible that these may be Young Stellar Objects, which are stars in their very infancy enveloped in dust. The infrared light seen from these baby stars does not come directly from the stars, but rather from the dust around them, which glows as the nascent stars heat it.