NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has been exploring space, the final frontier. While seeking out new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no telescope has gone before, the Spitzer came across a surprising find in the vast reaches of space: a pair of Starfleet’s very own USS Enterprise starships – in nebula form, that is.
The twin nebulae lie within the bounds of our own Milky Way galaxy that are usually obstructed from Earthlings’ views by clouds of cosmic dust. Luckily, the Spitzer telescope is equipped with advanced infrared camera arrays that allow the telescope to peer through dust and other cosmic clouds that would otherwise obscure visible light.
According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the image that shows the two Enterprise-shaped nebulae was creating by colorizing images of different wavelengths of radiation and matter captured using the Spitzer’s infrared camera technology:
This image was assembled using data from Spitzer’s biggest surveys of the Milky Way, called GLIMPSE and MIPSGAL. Light with a wavelength of 3.5 microns is shown in blue, 8.0 microns in green, and 24 microns in red. The green colors highlight organic molecules in the dust clouds, illuminated by starlight. Red colors are related to thermal radiation emitted from the very hottest areas of dust.
The finding of these Starship-shaped nebulae comes just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the seminal science fiction series that chronicled the adventures of the Enterprise and her crew. Star Trek appeared on September 8, 1966 after being produced by a studio owned by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
The show instantly developed a cult following, but never developed the high ratings necessary to justify its budget. Star Trek was cancelled after only three seasons, but grew to immense popularity following a widespread network syndication deal. A series of movies followed, and the rest is history. Star Trek is now a cultural institution, inspiring fan fiction and art, an enormous convention scene, and even living languages.