There are many amazing images of space that have been captured by telescopes or spacecraft over the years. Whether it's a supernova blast wave, a texture of a planet or pillars interstellar gases and dust, we can all marvel at the beauty of these pictures.
Sometimes, however, there is more to the stars and lights than meets the eye. Look at the image below to see if you can find anything. This image was taken by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. It was operational between 2003 and 2020.
Are you still not getting anything? Let us give you a hint: Think about monsters... specifically those that were created in Japanese films from the 1950s. Before we can tell you more, you might need to look closely and use your imagination.
The nebula is a shield for a specific person. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The picture depicts a nebula nursery consisting of stars, located in the constellation of Sagittarius, on the plane of Milky Way. The bright area in the lower left looks like it is being held by a large creature. This is the star-forming region W33. It is approximately 7,800 light years from Earth.
This picture was taken as part of Spitzer’s GLIMPSE Survey. It stands for Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire. Spitzer has retired but the images it took are still being analysed.
Robert Hurt (from the California Institute of Technology, Caltech) is one of the people who analyzes the images. He's been able to identify something in the image. Hurt believes there is a hint of Godzilla as you may have already guessed.
Hurt says, "I wasn’t looking for monsters." Hurt says, "I was just able to look at a part of the sky that I had previously looked at many times but never zoomed in on." Sometimes, if you crop an area differently it can bring out something you hadn't seen before. It was my eyes and mouth, which roared "Godzilla!"
The beast is revealed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Pareidolia refers to the tendency to see meaning in an image that isn't meaningful. It can happen quite often, even in photos of the cosmos. Take a look at Spitzer images that look like a jack or a black widow spider or the Starship Enterprise.
This is where color processing comes in: blue, green, red, and cyan are used to signify different wavelengths or infrared light wavelengths, along with yellow and white combinations. The stars emit light blue and cyan, while the stars emit light green and dust organic molecules called hydrocarbons. Red is warm dust that has been heated by supernovae or stars.
Spitzer continues to work to catalog and analyze the data, and to raise awareness about its findings. Sometimes that means using an iconic sea creature to tell a story.
Hurt says, "It's one way that we want people connect with the incredible work of Spitzer."
"I seek out compelling areas that can tell stories. Sometimes, it's about the formation of stars and planets. Other times it's about a gigantic monster ravaging Tokyo.