NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope concluded operations on January 30th, 2020, leaving behind a 16+ year legacy of data that have transformed our understanding of the universe. This image of the W51 region was compiled from the vast archives of the GLIMPSE and MIPSGAL legacy projects. Located about 17,000 light-years from Earth, W51 is about 350 light-years across. First identified in 1958 by radio telescopes, it is almost invisible to telescopes that observe visible light, but is easily seen at longer infrared wavelengths of light depicted here. The image combines data taken during the cryogenic mission at 3.6 (blue), 8.0 (green), and 24 (red) µm from the IRAC and MIPS instruments.
Caltech’s Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) started 2020 with the discovery of the first asteroid that orbits entirely within the orbit of Venus. The newfound body, named 2020 AV2, has a diameter of nearly 2 km. Asteroids of this nature were postulated to exist, though models suggested ZTF would probably not be able to detect them so readily.
credit: NSF and ZTF Collaboration
NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission discovered a cosmic visitor making a once-in-our-lifetimes pass through the inner solar system on March 27th, 2020. Over the ensuing months Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE increased in brightness, becoming an object easily seen with the naked eye in June and July. The left panel is a composite of 3 NEOWISE observations at wavelengths of 3.4 (cyan) and 4.6 (red) µm showing the comet’s movement against the background stars. The right panel is a digital photograph taken in Southern California shortly after sunset on July 18th.
credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; R. Hurt (IPAC)