Washington: A large new collection of unique space photos taken at wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye and blocked by Earth's atmosphere has been released as a New Year's gift to the people of Earth by NASA.
    
The photographs have been released by the US space agency in collaboration with Penn State University.
    
The images have been captured by Swift observatory's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope that studies ultraviolet light, much of which is blocked by the atmosphere surrounding Earth.
    
"This extensive image gallery has some of the best pictures ever taken by this telescope, including some very early images that have not been published until now," said Michael Siegel, a Penn State research associate in astronomy and astrophysics who is the lead scientist for the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope.

The image gallery includes images from Siegel's study of the Omega Centauri star cluster, Penn State Research Associate Erik Hoversten's studies of galaxies near to our Milky Way Galaxy, and NASA Astronomer Stefan Immler's work on the early images captured by the Swift observatory.
    
"We intend to keep updating the gallery about once a month with new images from Swift as well as an interesting collection of images that document stages in Swift's preparation for launch into space," Siegel said.
    
"We also plan to continue adding spectacular images from several new long-term studies of the Small Magellanic Cloud and the Large Magellanic Cloud," Siegel said in a statement.
    
The Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) plays a critical role in rapidly pinpointing the locations of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the brightest explosions in the universe. Swift has detected an average of about 90 GRBs a year since its launch in 2004.
    
"When we are not studying GRBs, we use the satellite's unique capabilities to engage in other scientific investigations, some of which produce these beautiful images from the UVOT that we're now delighted to be able to share with the public," Siegel said.
    
"One of our more challenging projects was completing an ultraviolet mosaic of M31, the famous Andromeda galaxy," said Stefan Immler, a member of the Swift team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
    
"Because the galaxy is so much larger than the UVOT's field of view, we had to take dozens of pictures and blend them together to show the whole object," Immler said.
    
With Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope, astronomers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Penn State have catalogued hundreds of rare types of stars and are now comparing their observations with theoretical models in order to advance the understanding of how stars evolve.

(Agencies)

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