Hats Off to Space Day! Spitzer Space Telescope Unveils Sombrero
NASA salutes Space Day, observed this year on May 5, with a new
dramatic image of the Sombrero galaxy. Space Day, held the first
Thursday each May, is designed to inspire the next generation of
Image right: This new image of Messier 104, the Sombrero galaxy, combines a recent infrared observation from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope with a well-known visible light image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/STScI.
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The galaxy, called Messier 104, is commonly known as the Sombrero
galaxy because in visible light it resembles a broad-brimmed Mexican
hat called a sombrero. The new Sombrero picture combines a recent
infrared observation from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope with a well-
known visible light image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The new Sombrero image is available at
Spitzer adds new detail to the galaxy's bright, bulbous core and its
thick, outer dust lanes. Infrared light traces the dust and makes
the dark, murky ring glow brilliantly. The clumpy dust ring also
becomes transparent in infrared. This allows a clear view of the
inner disk of stars within the dust ring.
The Sombrero is one of the most massive objects at the southern edge
of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. It is equal in size to 800 billion
suns. This spiral galaxy is located 28 million light-years away and
is 50,000 light-years across. Viewed from Earth, it is just six
degrees away from its equatorial plane.
The Hubble images were taken by the Hubble Heritage Team in May
through June 2003, with the telescope's advanced camera for surveys.
Spitzer's images were taken in June 2004 and January 2005 as part of
the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey, using the telescope's
infrared array camera.
The survey is one of the six Spitzer Legacy Science projects
designed to reveal how stars form in different types of galaxies,
and to provide an atlas of galaxy images and spectra for future
archival investigations. The Sombrero is one of 75 galaxies being
observed by the survey team.
The Spitzer Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope are part of
NASA's Great Observatories program, which also includes the Chandra
X-ray Observatory and the previously operating Compton Gamma Ray
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the
Spitzer mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. JPL is a
division of Caltech.
Gay Yee Hill (818) 354-0344
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory