How NASA's Spitzer has stayed alive for so long

After nearly 16 years of exploring the cosmos in infrared light, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope will be switched off permanently on Jan. 30, 2020. By then, the spacecraft will have operated for more than 11 years beyond its ...

Three dark fields for Euclid's deep survey

Scientists in the Euclid Consortium have selected three extremely dark patches of the sky that will be the subject of the mission's deepest observations, aiming at exploring faint and rare objects in the Universe. The position ...

Suppressed star formation in the early universe

Massive clusters of galaxies, some with more mass than a hundred Milky Way galaxies, have been detected from cosmic epochs as early as about three billion years after the big bang. Their ongoing star formation makes them ...

New clues about how ancient galaxies lit up the universe

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed that some of the universe's earliest galaxies were brighter than expected. The excess light is a byproduct of the galaxies releasing incredibly high amounts of ionizing radiation. ...

The giant galaxy around the giant black hole

On April 10, 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) unveiled the first-ever image of a black hole's event horizon, the area beyond which light cannot escape the immense gravity of the black hole. That giant black hole, with ...

'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 ...

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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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