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NASA's Spitzer Telescope Revealed Colors Unseeable By The Human Eye. It Retires Next Week

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This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a cloud of gas and dust full of bubbles. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)
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Next week, the last of four NASA space-based observatories will retire. The Spitzer Space Telescope brought the universe into a new light (literally), revealing images of planets, solar systems, stars and more in infrared -- renderings that human eyes aren't able to see otherwise.

"Infrared light provides unique perspectives on the universe," said Michael Werner, a project scientist for Spitzer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "In the infrared, we have some unique things we can do to augment our understanding."

To that end, Spitzer - which launched in 2003 - allowed scientists to see stars in distant galaxies, planets that might be too cool to produce much light, and parts of the universe that are otherwise blocked by small particles.

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"We call these the old, the cold, and the dirty," said Werner.

The other space observatories in Spitzer's class include the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. In 2016, NASA announced that Spitzer and Hubble had identified GN-z11, the most distant galaxy scientists had observed to date.

Spitzer will retire on Jan. 30. Here are some of the images it has taken over the years. Live long and prosper, old friend.

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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveals a baby star sprouting two identical jets (green lines emanating from the fuzzy star). (NASA / JPL-Caltech / A. Raga)

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This multi-panel image by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows how different wavelengths of light can reveal different features of a cosmic object. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows where the action is taking place in galaxy NGC 1291. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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The giant star Zeta Ophiuchi, a young, large and hot star located around 370 light years away, is having a shocking effect on the surrounding dust clouds in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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Infant stars are glowing in this image of the Serpens star-forming region, captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the galaxy Messier 104 in infrared. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of of dust in this image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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A new view of the Carina nebula from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

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This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Helix nebula. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Correction: A previous version of this story mispelled Michael Werner's name. LAist regrets the error.