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10 images from NASA's Spitzer telescope

By: Katherine Butler on Nov. 9, 2011, 9:22 a.m.
a colorful blueish and greenish image of the milky way

Photo: Spitzer Science Center/California Institute of Technology

7 of 12

Stars gather in downtown Milky Way

Spitzer operates in a heliocentric, Earth-trailing orbit. (As experts point out, this system will help prolong the longevity of the coolant because cryogen is used to take up the power dissipated by the detector arrays, rather than lost to heat loads.) Pictured here is the bright central star cluster of our Milky Way galaxy. Because of Spitzer's infrared abilities, we are able to view the group of stars as never before. This area is gigantic. According to the space agency, "The region pictured here is immense, with a horizontal span of 2,400 light-years (5.3 degrees) and a vertical span of 1,360 light-years (3 degrees)."