Spitzer Space Telescope spots ‘rampaging space monster’

Just in time for Halloween, NASA astronomers have spotted a rampaging space monster deep out in the distant cosmos. But it won’t be coming to devour us any time soon, as the monster is just an outline in the shape of Godzilla, seen in an image from the Spitzer Space Telescope.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope imaged this cloud of gas and dust. The colors represent different wavelengths of infrared light and can reveal such features as places where radiation from stars had heated the surrounding material. Any resemblance to Godzilla is purely imaginary.
NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope imaged this cloud of gas and dust. The colors represent different wavelengths of infrared light and can reveal such features as places where radiation from stars had heated the surrounding material.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope imaged this cloud of gas and dust. The colors represent different wavelengths of infrared light and can reveal such features as places where radiation from stars had heated the surrounding material. Any resemblance to Godzilla is purely imaginary. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Spitzer, which was retired last year, looked out at the universe in the infrared wavelength in order to peer through clouds of dust and see the complex shapes of nebulae and galaxies which would be hidden in the visible light wavelength. In one such nebula, Caltech astronomer Robert Hurt spotted Godzilla.

“I wasn’t looking for monsters,” Hurt said in a statement. “I just happened to glance at a region of sky that I’ve browsed many times before, but I’d never zoomed in on. Sometimes if you just crop an area differently, it brings out something that you didn’t see before. It was the eyes and mouth that roared ‘Godzilla’ to me.”

Hurt processed this image, along with many other Spitzer images, and Digital Trends previously interviewed him about his work doing image processing and illustrations for NASA. Even though Spitzer is now retired, Hurt and other astronomers continue to comb through the massive archive of public material that the telescope gathered over its 17-year mission.

The structure of Godzilla is seen in a nebula, which is a cloud of dust and gas that is formed into complex shapes by the births and deaths of stars within it. The bright yellow-ish region pictured in Godzilla’s right hand is called W33, and is a star-forming region in which some of the earliest features called “yellowballs” were noticed.

“It’s one of the ways that we want people to connect with the incredible work that Spitzer did,” Hurt said. “I look for compelling areas that can really tell a story. Sometimes it’s a story about how stars and planets form, and sometimes it’s about a giant monster rampaging through Tokyo.”

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