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06.08.06

Supernova Dust Factory in M74

Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have spotted a "dust factory" thirty million light-years away in the spiral galaxy M74. The factory is located at the scene of a massive star's explosive death, or supernova.

While astronomers have suspected for years that supernovae could be producers of cosmic dust particles, the technology to confirm this suspicion has only recently become available.

The dust factory, also known as supernova SN 2003gd, is shown at the center of this image from Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera (IRAC). By the time this image was obtained, in January 2005, the dust had cooled and completely faded from IRAC's view. However, it was still detected in January 2005 by another instrument aboard Spitzer called the Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS). The MIPS image is not shown here.

The image is an infrared composite, in which 3.6-micron light is blue, 4.5-micron light is green, and 8-micron light is red.