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08.22.13

The Stars of the Barred Sculptor Galaxy

The spectacular swirling arms and central bar of the Sculptor galaxy are revealed in this new starlight view from NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope.

Also known as NGC 253, the Sculptor galaxy is part of a cluster of galaxies visible to observers in the Southern hemisphere. It is known as a starburst galaxy for the extraordinarily strong star formation in its nucleus.

In this image, the blue glow primarily comes from stars as seen at shorter wavelengths of infrared light. In this view, the disk, spiral arms and central bar are much easier to identify than in visible light because the obscuring effects of dust are minimized.

While Spitzer is now operating without any onboard cryogen, it can still operate its shorter-wavelength detectors to produce images like this. Spitzer continues to be a valuable tool for studying the infrared properties of galaxies near and far.

Infrared light with wavelengths of 3.6 and 4.5 microns is shown as blue/cyan. These observations were made during Spitzer's early cold, or cryogenic, mission but are typical of what can be achieved during the ongoing warm mission phase.