NASA Spitzer telescope gives us one final, ethereal nebula image

A mosaic of the California Nebula is a fitting last look for the now-retired space telescope.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This Spitzer Space Telescope captured this view of the California Nebula just five days before the end of its mission on Jan. 30, 2020.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Palomar Digitized Sky Survey

NASA's legendary Spitzer Space Telescope went into retirement earlier this year, but not before taking a moment to gaze at the beautiful California Nebula, a ghostly cloud of gas and dust where stars are forming. The resulting mosaic is a fitting addition to the telescope's impressive legacy of cosmic views.

"Located about 1,000 light-years from Earth, the nebula looks more than a little like the Golden State when viewed by visible-light telescopes," said NASA in a release on Friday. Spitzer's infrared vision highlighted the dust component of the nebula. NASA said the dust has the consistency of soot.

Sptizer captured the images used in this final mosaic just five days before the end of its mission on Jan. 30. The Spitzer team was based in California, making the nebula a perfect tribute. 

Spitzer collected observations for over 16 years, leaving us with a vast trove of valuable data. 

"Sometime in the future, some scientist will be able to use that data to do a really interesting analysis," astronomer Sean Carey said in reference to the California Nebula. The rest of us can simply enjoy the opportunity to lose ourselves in one more stunning image from an epic mission.

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