See the sky in a different light

An interactive map lets you explore the galaxy with infrared light

TRAILS OF GAS AND DUST  The Seagull Nebula, seen in this Spitzer Space Telescope image from the GLIMPSE360 atlas, sits over 3,600 light-years from Earth along the border of the constellations Canis Major and Monoceros.


Gazing at the vast sky on a dark, clear night is humbling. But what if your eyes could see infrared light? The view might look something like NASA’s new interactive map of the galaxy. GLIMPSE360 is a night-sky atlas assembled from over 2 million images taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Because interstellar clouds block visible light, the infrared maps allow you to peer through galactic dust lanes and into the hearts of stellar nurseries. Familiar pan-and-zoom tools allow users to explore the sky. But the most powerful feature is a slider bar that switches the view between visible and infrared light. Suddenly, the power of observing the universe at different wavelengths becomes evident as dark clouds give way to nebulae, star clusters and supernova remnants.

A separate viewer lets you jump right to specific objects, in case browsing aimlessly isn’t your thing. Be sure to check out the galactic center, the Cygnus-X star formation complex and the vast Eta Carina Nebula. 

headshot of Associate News Editor Christopher Crockett

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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