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In 1609, Galileo improved the newly invented telescope, turned it toward the heavens, and revolutionized our view of the universe. In celebration of the 400th anniversary of this milestone, 2009 has been designated as the International Year of Astronomy.
Today, NASA's Great Observatories are continuing Galileo's legacy with stunning images and breakthrough science from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
While Galileo observed the sky using visible light seen by the human eye, technology now allows us to observe in many wavelengths, including Spitzer's infrared view and Chandra's view in X-rays. Each wavelength region shows different aspects of celestial objects and often reveals new objects that could not otherwise be studied.
This image of spiral galaxy Messier 101 is the visible light view from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Composite images allow astronomers to see how features seen in one wavelength match up with those seen in another wavelength. It's like seeing with a camera, night vision goggles, and X-ray vision all at once.
In the four centuries since Galileo, astronomy has changed dramatically. Yet our curiosity and quest for knowledge remain the same. So, too, does our wonder at the splendor of the universe.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, SSC, and STScI
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