'Space butterfly' is home to hundreds of baby stars

What looks like a red butterfly in space is in reality a nursery for hundreds of baby stars, revealed in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Officially named Westerhout 40 (W40), the butterfly is a nebula—a ...

Discovering a brown dwarf binary star with microlensing

Brown dwarfs are stars less massive than the sun and unable to burn hydrogen. They comprise (at least in mass) a bridge between planets and stars, and astronomers think that they form and evolve in ways different from either ...

Stars shrouded in iron dust

The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has participated in the discovery of a group of metal-poor stars shrouded in a large amount of iron dust situated in the Large Magellanic Cloud. This study involved a combination ...

NASA Learns More About Interstellar Visitor 'Oumuamua

In November 2017, scientists pointed NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope toward the object known as 'Oumuamua—the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system. The infrared Spitzer was one of many telescopes pointed ...

Image: Newborn stars blow bubbles in the Cat's Paw Nebula

This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Cat's Paw Nebula, so named for the large, round features that create the impression of a feline footprint. The nebula is a star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy, ...

'Oumuamua one year later

One year ago this week astronomers discovered an unusual object moving through space not too far from the Earth's orbit. In just a few days they realized it could not be a normal asteroid or comet – its path showed that ...

Remarkable flares from the galactic center

Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, is 100 times closer to us than any other SMBH and therefore a prime candidate for studies of how matter radiates as it accretes onto ...

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Spitzer Space Telescope

The Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, SIRTF) is an infrared space observatory launched in 2003. It is the fourth and final of NASA's Great Observatories.

The planned nominal mission period was to be 2.5 years with a pre-launch expectation that the mission could extend to five or slightly more years until the onboard liquid helium supply was exhausted. This occurred on 15 May 2009 . The two shortest wavelength modules of the IRAC camera are still operable in a "warm" (ca. 30K) telescope so surveys will continue at reduced sensitivity in these wavebands only in the Spitzer Warm Mission.

In keeping with NASA tradition, the telescope was renamed after successful demonstration of operation, on December 18, 2003. Unlike most telescopes which are named after famous deceased astronomers by a board of scientists, the name for SIRTF was obtained from a contest open to the general public.

The result was it being named in honor of Lyman Spitzer, one of the 20th century's great scientists. Though he was not the first to propose the idea of the space telescope (Hermann Oberth being the first, in Wege zur Raumschiffahrt, 1929, and also in Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen, 1923), Spitzer has been cited for his pioneering contributions to rocketry and astronomy, as well as "his vision and leadership in articulating the advantages and benefits to be realized from the Space Telescope Program."

The US$800 million Spitzer was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, on a Delta II 7920H ELV rocket, Monday, 25 August 2003 at 13:35:39 UTC-5 (EDT). It follows a rather unusual orbit, heliocentric instead of geocentric, trailing and drifting away from Earth's orbit at approximately 0.1 astronomical unit per year (a so-called "earth-trailing" orbit). The primary mirror is 85 cm in diameter, f/12 and made of beryllium and was cooled to 5.5 K. The satellite contains three instruments that allowed it to perform imaging and photometry from 3 to 180 micrometers, spectroscopy from 5 to 40 micrometers, and spectrophotometry from 5 to 100 micrometers.

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