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Looking back at Spitzer’s greatest photos © NASA/Spitzer

Looking back at Spitzer’s greatest photos

Published: 14th April, 2020 at 12:02
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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has retired. Let's have a look at some of its most beautiful images.

On 30 January 2020, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was retired from orbital operations. Since its launch in August 2003, Spitzer’s sensitive infrared instruments have enabled it to study cold, dusty and distant objects in unprecedented detail. Here are some of its best images...

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See more beautiful astronomical photos:

North America Nebula

© NASA/Spitzer
© NASA/Spitzer

This view of the North America Nebula was made by combining images created using visible light (blue) and infrared (red and green). It shows clusters of young stars aged between one and five million years old.

Messier 81

© NASA/Spitzer
© NASA/Spitzer

The spiral galaxy Messier 81 is located 12 million light-years from Earth in the northern constellation of Ursa Major, which also includes the Plough. It is easily visible through a pair of good binoculars. This image has been specially processed to isolate the distribution of dust throughout. The dust particles are composed of silicates – chemicals that are similar to the sand you’d find on a beach.

Helix Nebula

© NASA/Spitzer
© NASA/Spitzer

The eye-like Helix Nebula is located about 700 light-years from Earth. It is a planetary nebula – an expanding shell of ionised gas that is created when the internal fuel supply of a Sun-like star runs out, leaving the outer layers to puff out. The Sun will follow a similar fate in about five billion years.

Messier 106

© NASA/Spitzer
© NASA/Spitzer

This image shows Messier 106, also known as NGC 4258, a spiral galaxy located 23 million light-years away from Earth. It was first discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781.

Zeta Ophiuchi

© NASA/Spitzer
© NASA/Spitzer
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The giant star Zeta Ophiuchi is 20 times more massive and 80,000 times brighter than the Sun. It has a huge shock wave at its fore, created by raging winds that flow from it. This infrared image shows its vast scale.

Authors

Jason Goodyer
Jason GoodyerCommissioning editor, BBC Science Focus

Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.

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