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Astronomy is an observational science. Astronomers use ancient light to learn about the structure and evolution of objects throughout the universe. Our observations consist of images and spectra. Spectra allow us to divide light into its component colors. These data yield the composition and structure of distant objects. Images provide us with the relative brightness of objects and their surroundings at specific wavelengths. Often, we combine images at several wavelengths to learn how different components of the object contribute to its appearance.
The astronomical images in this gallery span all wavelengths. Optical images show us the light from distant stars and galaxies. Infrared, submillimeter, and radio images probe colder material, usually dust and gas in the giant molecular clouds where stars form. Ultraviolet, X-ray, and Gamma-ray images allow us to study very hot gas and energetic processes in stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies.
You can learn more about the science we learn from these images in the research pages for the High Energy Astrophysics (HEA), Optical and Infrared (OIR), Radio and Geoastronomy (RG), and Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences (SSP) divisions.