Saturday, July 09, 2022

The Pleiades Star Cluster | NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (Infrared)

The Pleiades Star Cluster | NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (Infrared)

Before the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope was the largest infrared telescope in space. This is a color composite image of the Pleiades star cluster and surrounding region produced by Inseok Song of the Spitzer Science Center. The image was created by combining B, R and I band images from individual second generation Digital Sky Survey images into blue, green and red image layers, respectively. 

The Pleiades, also known as The Seven Sisters, Messier 45, and other names by different cultures, is an asterism and an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot B-type stars in the north-west of the constellation Taurus.

The cluster is dominated by hot blue luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. Reflection nebulae around the brightest stars were once thought to be left over material from their formation, but are now considered likely to be an unrelated dust cloud in the interstellar medium through which the stars are currently passing.

The Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly SIRTF, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility) was launched by a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 25, 2003. Consisting of a 0.85-meter telescope and three cryogenically-cooled science instruments, Spitzer was the largest infrared space telescope before the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched in December 2021. The telescope was named in honor of American astronomer, Lyman Spitzer, who had promoted the concept of space telescopes in the 1940s. The retired Spitzer was the first observatory to provide high-resolution images of the near- and mid-infrared Universe. Webb, by virtue of its significantly larger primary mirror and improved detectors, will allow us to see the infrared sky with improved clarity (better spatial resolution), enabling even more discoveries.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, managed the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Science operations were conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations were based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Credit: Inseok Song/Digital Sky Survey/Spitzer Space Telescope/JPL/Caltech

Image Release Date: Nov. 14, 2007

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