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Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the TV series "Star Trek,"
which first aired September 8th,1966, a new infrared image from NASA's
Spitzer Space Telescope may remind fans of the historic show.
ancient times, people have imagined familiar objects when gazing at the
heavens. There are many examples of this phenomenon, known as
pareidolia, including the constellations and the well-known nebulae
named Ant, Stingray and Hourglass.
On the right of the image,
with a little scrutiny, you may see hints of the saucer and hull of the
original USS Enterprise, captained by James T. Kirk, as if it were
emerging from a dark nebula. To the left, its "Next Generation"
successor, Jean-Luc Picard's Enterprise-D, flies off in the opposite
Astronomically speaking, the region pictured in the
image falls within the disk of our Milky Way galaxy and displays two
regions of star formation hidden behind a haze of dust when viewed in
visible light. Spitzer's ability to peer deeper into dust clouds has
revealed a myriad of stellar birthplaces like these, which are
officially known only by their catalog numbers, IRAS 19340+2016 and
Trekkies, however, may prefer using the more
familiar designations NCC-1701 and NCC-1701-D. Fifty years after its
inception, Star Trek still inspires fans and astronomers alike to boldly
explore where no one has gone before.
This image was assembled
using data from Spitzer's biggest surveys of the Milky Way, called
GLIMPSE and MIPSGAL. Light with a wavelength of 3.5 microns is shown in
blue, 8.0 microns in green, and 24 microns in red. The green colors
highlight organic molecules in the dust clouds, illuminated by
starlight. Red colors are related to thermal radiation emitted from the
very hottest areas of dust.
JPL manages the Spitzer Space
Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at
Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are
archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared
Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.