Technology & Science

WISE telescope captures space 'rose'

NASA's new infrared telescope has produced another stunning image of newly born stars emerging from dusty clouds.

NASA's new infrared telescope has produced another stunning image of newly born stars emerging from dusty clouds.

NASA released the image of the "cosmic rosebud" Wednesday, showing stars in the Berkeley 59 cluster, about 3,300 light years from Earth.

The false colours in the image are meant to represent different wavelengths of infrared light captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, satellite.

The blue dots to the right of centre of the image represent stars that are just a few million years old, very young on the scale of lifetimes of stars. The red glow surrounding the stars is dust in the nebula heated by the stars.

The green material is essentially ash, chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are the result of combustion. The material is found on Earth in such places as fireplaces, barbecue pits and exhaust pipes.

The blue stars around the edges of the image are stars from our own Milky Way galaxy.

The gas and dust in this nebula have been blown outward by a supernova, giving it a flower-like shape.

The WISE telescope, launched in December, is on a mission to survey the entire sky in the infrared part of the light spectrum.

The satellite is orbiting the Earth more than 500 kilometres over the north and south poles, detecting objects that are difficult to see from the ground, including asteroids, cool stars such as brown dwarfs, and galaxies that shine brightly in infrared light.

WISE is mapping the sky in the infrared, so it has to be cooled so that it won't be blinded by its own heat. While the vacuum of space is cold, it isn't a very good conductor of heat, so the satellite carries super-cooled liquid hydrogen, which it vents into space.

Because WISE has a limited supply of hydrogen coolant, the satellite's mission will last only about 10 months, enough time to survey the entire sky about one-and-a-half times.

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