NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) just released a new series of galactic images – allowing us just a hint at the amazing, and colorful, things to come. Release data products include an Atlas of 10,464 calibrated, co-added Image Sets and a Source Catalog containing positional and photometric information for over 257 million objects detected on the WISE images. Out of all this data, the mission plans to release a thousand images and possibly more…
“Galaxies come in all sorts of delicious flavors,” said Tom Jarrett, a WISE team member at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, who studies our Milky Way’s neighboring galaxies. “Our first sample shows what WISE is capable of. We can produce spectacular high-resolution images of the largest galaxies.”
Images taken in infrared light have been transformed into colors we can understand and relate to. Short wavelengths appear as blue and the longest are red. By token, aging stars appear blue, while clusters of newly formed stars take on yellow or reddish hues. This newly released image gives us a great sampler of all galaxy types – from elegant to disturbed. Because they are “close to home”, these particular galactic images taken through the eyes of WISE will allow us further insight as to their formation and evolution.
“We can learn about a galaxy’s stars — where are they forming and how fast?” said Jarrett. “There’s so much diversity in galaxies to explore.”
WISE, which launched into space in Dec. 2009, has been a busy project. Scanning the whole sky one-and-a-half times in infrared light, the mission has captured images as close as asteroids in our own solar system and distant galaxies billions of light-years away. The first data set, which ironically doesn’t include all of the galaxies in the new collage, was released to the public in April of this year. The complete WISE catalog will follow a year later, in the spring of 2012.
Says NASA; “The most distant objects that will stand out like ripe cherries in WISE’s view are tremendously energetic galaxies. Called ultraluminous infrared galaxies, or ULIRGs, these objects shine with the light of up to a trillion suns. They crowd the distant universe, but appear virtually absent in visible-light surveys. WISE should find millions of ultra-luminous infrared galaxies, and the most luminous of these could be the most luminous galaxy in the Universe.”
Source: Berkeley U.