More than meets the eye.
Telescope data captures the information we can’t see, thanks to its ability to pick up on wavelengths that are invisible to the eye.
James Yu/Moment/Getty Images
Capturing high and low-frequency waves outside the visible spectrum can illuminate the forces at play in objects like nebulae, black holes, and colliding galaxies.
In early February, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory released a gallery of images showcasing five objects in the universe imaged through visible, X-ray, and radio wavelengths.
Here’s what invisible light reveals about 5 iconic space objects:
In visible light, two stars — a dull white dwarf and glowing red giant — can be seen at the center of this image.
Here’s what the jet stream looks like streaking across the visible landscape of R Aquarii.
The supernova remnant Cas A looks like a cluster of brassy clouds in visible light. But its explosive expanse can only be detected at invisible wavelengths.
Beware the void! Not only does Abell 2597’s supermassive black hole devour cold, dense gasses, but it also spews hot ones in fountain-like formations.
Abell galaxy in X-ray
The swirling gas spews can be seen here in X-ray wavelengths.
Inside this cluster of stars and gas is a nebula shaped like an acoustic guitar.
The Guitar Nebula formed when a star exploded unevenly on its way to becoming a pulsar. The violent shove can be seen in this composite.
The bright valleys of stars in NGC 4490 would be nothing without the galaxy’s constant interaction with its neighboring galaxy, NGC 4485.
But some of the galaxy’s more peculiar objects — black holes and neutron stars — can’t be seen without an X-ray telescope.