NASA Spitzer Telescope's Final Mosaic Showcases California Nebula

NASA has shared the final mosaic captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope that it officially retired back in January. The telescope had set its sights on the California Nebula, having captured a series of images that were assembled together into a final composite image. The nebula featured in the mosaic is around 1,000 light-years from Earth, according to NASA, which provides very high-resolution versions of its images.

NASA decommissioned the Spitzer Space Telescope on January 30, 2020, following its launch in 2003. Before this happened, though, NASA used the telescope one final time to capture images of the California Nebula on January 25. The images were sent back to the team on Earth, then the telescope went permanently dark, bringing its mission to an end.

Late last week, NASA shared a mosaic created from this final batch of images, one that features bright stars, as well as a sample of the cyan and red versions of the imagery captured by the telescope during its scan of the sky. These two colored ends represent two different wavelengths that were captured, one at 3.6 micrometers and the other at 4.5 micrometers.

Capturing in these different wavelengths was important because they reveal different features and objects, producing a more robust and complete final image. The gray-colored center part of the mosaic shows what the two different wavelengths captured when combined together, according to NASA.

Though it's difficult to tell without guidance, the image features the spiral arms of the background galaxy captured in the image, as well as the nebula itself. Anyone can view and download the high-resolution versions of these images, as well as one that has notable features circled in red, on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website here.