WISE showcases medley
of first images
DR EMILY BALDWIN
Posted: 18 February 2010
Scientists have released the first images from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), showcasing a variety of celestial objects from comets to star forming regions and galaxy clusters.
“We’ve got a candy store of images coming down from space,” says Edward (Ned) Wright of UCLA, the principal investigator for WISE. “Everyone has their favourite flavours, and we’ve got them all.”
Here are some of those flavours to sample:
Comet Siding Spring streaks across WISE's field of view in this image, its dusty tail lit up in infrared as it becomes heated by the Sun. WISE is expected to reveal dozens of comets during its survey. Remnants of the early Solar System, data on these pristine objects will teach us about our Solar System's evolution. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.
WISE is particularly sensitive to the warm dust that permeates star-forming factories like NGC 3603. The inset reveals the very centre of the cloud as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light. The cluster contains some of the most massive stars known, their winds and radiation blasting away the material from which they formed and lighting up the gas. Eventually this active region will be blasted apart by supernovae explosions as the stars reach the end of their short lives. WISE Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA; Hubble image: NASA/STScI/MPIA/Univ. of Heidelberg/Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Andromeda seen through the eyes of WISE which shows the oldest stars in blue, and newborn massive stars in red and yellow (top image). In the short-wavelength view (middle image) a pronounced warp is seen in the disc of the galaxy, emphasized in the spiral arm to the upper left of the galaxy, the result of an ancient collision with another galaxy. The bottom image shows Andromeda at the longest infrared wavelengths, which highlights hot dust heated by new stars. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Hundreds of galaxies are seen in this field of view, making up the Fornax cluster some 60 million light years from Earth. The centre of the cluster is dominated by the galaxy known as NGC 1399, a large spheroidal galaxy whose light is almost exclusively from old stars and thus appears blue. Stealing the show in the lower right of the frame is the giant barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365, its dusty spiral arms rich in new stars standing out against the background. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.
“All these pictures tell a story about our dusty origins and destiny,” adds Peter Eisenhardt, the WISE project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “WISE sees dusty comets and rocky asteroids tracing the formation and evolution of our solar system. We can map thousands of forming and dying solar systems across our entire galaxy. We can see patterns of star formation across other galaxies, and waves of star-bursting galaxies in clusters millions of light years away.”
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