The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its Spitzer Space Telescope have been able to document one of our Milky Way Galaxy’s prime locations for star formation. Located in the W51 nebula, it is about 17,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the Aquila constellation.
It was first identified more than six decades ago by the space agency’s radio telescope equipment. Yet it has a size of about 350 light-years, roughly about two quadrillion miles, it is invisible to the regular telescopes. You need specialized equipment, like the Spitzer, to be able to observe it properly and collect data about it. In a press release from NASA, the reason behind this is that there are interstellar dust clouds between W51 and our planet which hampers our view of it. In W51’s case, its emission of infrared rays can course through these clouds untethered which helps specialists track its progress.
Scientists suggest that there are more hubs like this located in our universe and they are extremely old – the W51 is estimated to be 3.5 million years old. They may be old but it is believed that they continue to live on for millions of more years.
Vivid images showing the W51 nebula in the high definition were captured during the Spitzer Space Telescope’s mission called GLIMPSE. The Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire or GLIMPSE was conducted more than fifteen years ago to map the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Retired almost seven months ago, valuable data gathered by the Spitzer during its whole tenure is made available to the members of the general public through an archive located at California Institute of Technology’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC). NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed its mission operations.