China announces its new flagship space telescope mission

Distant galaxies, dark matter, dark energy and the origin and evolution of the universe itself are some of the many scientific goals of China's newly announced space telescope. If all goes according to plan, the China Space ...

Astronomers capture surprising changes in Neptune's temperatures

An international team of astronomers have used ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO's VLT), to track Neptune's atmospheric temperatures over a 17-year period. They ...

Webb telescope's cool view on how stars, planets form

The ongoing success of the multi-instrument optics alignment for NASA's Webb telescope's near-infrared instruments has moved the attention of the commissioning team to chill as we carefully monitor the cooling of the Mid-InfraRed ...

Scientists have spotted the farthest galaxy ever

An international team of astronomers, including researchers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, has spotted the most distant astronomical object ever: a galaxy.

Early universe bristled with starburst galaxies

In the first few billion years after the Big Bang, the universe contained far more so-called starburst galaxies than models predict. As many as 60 to 90% of the stars in the early universe appear to have been produced by ...

G344.7-0.1: When a stable star explodes

White dwarfs are among the most stable of stars. Left on their own, these stars that have exhausted most of their nuclear fuel—while still typically as massive as the Sun—and shrunk to a relatively small size can last ...

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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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