WISE Unveils Our Hidden Neighbors

We've already been stunned by the images coming from WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, and its latest releases are no exception. Behind a veil of galactic dust that has previously obscured our view, two galaxies have been revealed. Big deal, I hear you say, but these galaxies are so close to us - in relative terms of course - that they should be the brightest galaxies in our sky! At a piffling 10 million light years away, Maffei 1 and Maffei 2 are a huge lenticular galaxy and gorgeous barred spiral galaxy that have made short work of stunning astronomers, who just love new things to look at.

Maffei 1 and 2 peek out from behind the dust

Click the image above for a larger view. Seen toward the upper left in this image, the two galaxies are revealed as a familiar spiral and a glowing blue orb set against the edge of the massive structure of the Heart Nebula, a mere 6,000 light years distant. Because the image data is predominantly infrared the colors we see are mapped from the different infrared frequencies which enables us to see what we normally could not. The blue light is 3.4 and 4.6 micron, and dominated by starlight. The green is 12 micron, and red is 22 micron. If we could see in infrared, these colors are pretty close to what we would see. Now, excuse me while I just stare at this for a while longer.


Visit the WISE website for more of its stunning images: http://wise.ssl.berkeley.edu/

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team
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