The 'Tornado Nebula.'
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / J. Bally (University of Colorado)
"The Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) is a cool camera, no matter what temperature in which it operates! For 1,000 days now, the camera has been continuously taking images of the Universe – from its most distant regions to our local solar neighborhood. The IRAC is now operating in a “warm” version of its mission, as after more than five-and-a-half years of probing the cool cosmos, in 2009 it ran out of liquid helium coolant that kept its infrared instruments chilled.
“IRAC continues to be an amazing camera, still producing important discoveries and spectacular new images of the infrared universe,” said principal investigator Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
To commemorate 1,000 days of infrared wonders, the program is releasing a gallery of the 10 best IRAC images, featuring images from both the cold and warm portions of its mission. Above is #1: The IRAC has uncovered some mysterious objects like this so-called “tornado” nebula. Because the camera is sensitive to light emitted from shocked molecular hydrogen (seen here in green), astronomers think that this strange beast is the result of an outflowing jet of material from a young star that has generated shock waves in surrounding gas and dust."