To help kick off 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, NASA's Great Observatories are releasing a series of images at over 100 planetariums, museums, nature centers, and schools across the country. The telescopes set their sights on one galaxy in particular, Messier 101, to show how far the field of astronomy has come over the past 400 years.
The Spitzer Space Telescope's view, taken in infrared light, reveals the galaxy's delicate dust lanes where stars can form.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory's image of Messier 101 highlights where sources of X-rays lie. These include million-degree gas, exploded stars, and material colliding around black holes.
The Hubble Space Telescope's image of Messier 101 helped give the faraway galaxy the nickname "Pinwheel Galaxy." Taken in visible light, Hubble sees stars lining up in a spiral formation, similar to the dust lanes Spitzer reveals.
Using information from the Spitzer Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Hubble Space Telescope, this composite image allows astronomers to see how features seen in one wavelength match up with those seen in another wavelength. Each wavelength region shows different aspects of celestial objects and often reveals new objects that could not otherwise be identified.