Barred Galaxy NGC 253 (Infrared Universe)

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Duration: 18 seconds

Infrared light can be critical for viewing the underlying structure of a galaxy. In NGC 253, the visible-light view is complicated by the viewing angle, dark dust clouds, and scatterings of massive stars. Switching to the near-infrared lets us see the full population of stars more clearly, revealing a bar running through the center of the galaxy. Including mid-infrared also brings out the dust lanes clearly, and even highlights the areas where stars are forming vigorously, particularly in the galaxy's center.

Optical: Dust and bright stars confuse the view in visible light.

Near-Infrared: The base population of stars reveal the spiral arms and central bar.

Mid-Infrared: Dust lanes along the spiral arms glow in the mid-infrared.

The human eye can only see visible light, but objects give off a variety of wavelengths of light. To see an object as it truly exists, we would ideally look at its appearance through the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Telescopes show us objects as they appear emitting different energies of light, with each wavelength conveying unique information about the object. The Webb Space Telescope will study infrared light from celestial objects with much greater clarity and sensitivity than ever before. Explore the Infrared Universe.

Adapted from Cool Cosmos by IPAC, with additional contributions from Bruno Merin and Miguel Merin (Pludo).

Galaxies, Infrared Universe, Scientific Visualizations, Spiral Galaxies, Spitzer


Optical: ESO. Near-infrared: NASA, JPL-Caltech, UCLA. Mid-infrared: NASA, JPL-Caltech, UCLA.

Publication: August 6, 2018