NASA bids farewell to iconic Spitzer Space Telescope

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope spotted the Tarantula Nebula which isn't too far from the Milky Way

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope spotted the Tarantula Nebula which isn't too far from the Milky Way

With wavelengths longer than those of visible light, infrared radiation is invisible to the naked eye, but not to Spitzer.

And there are so many more celestial objects that astronomers can study with infrared observatories like Spitzer. On May 15, 2009 the coolant was finally depleted and the "warm mission" began.

NASA's Spitzer is a fan of arachnids: The space telescope recently spotted the Tarantula Nebula and its starry web in space.

When it came to infrared astronomy, Spitzer did it all. "We leave behind a powerful scientific and technological legacy". So Spitzer also turned its infrared "eyes" on our own galaxy.

To see Spitzer's other space subjects, visit the NASA Selfies App. Deactivated in 2011, the telescope was reactivated in 2013 as NEOWISE.

Astronomers have taken advantage of infrared to look at planets in other solar systems, too.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is NASA's next infrared space observatory.

Webb's launch is now off until at least early next year. For example, Spitzer data revealed that Saturn's rings are even more extensive than previously thought.

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Spitzer was the part of NASA's four Great Observatories and displayed an infrared view of the cosmos.

NASA has now made a decision to put the Spitzer telescope into hibernation. The telescope, if launched as planned in the mid-2020s, will use a 2.4-meter mirror to observe near-infrared light between 0.48 and 2 micrometers.

Spitzer has observed the Tarantula Nebula, which is in the nearby dwarf galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, dozens of times since it was launched 16 years ago. It will have a wide field of view able to see 100 times more area of the sky than Hubble in a single shot, but with the same image quality.

"It's quite unbelievable when you lay out everything that Spitzer has done in its lifetime, from detecting asteroids in our solar system no larger than a stretch limousine to learning about some of the most distant galaxies we know of", said Spitzer project scientist Michael Werner in a NASA statement on Thursday.

NASA expects the $ 10 billion Webb to be launched in March 2021, although a recent report from the Government Accountability Office says there is only a 12 percent chance of meeting this deadline. That puts it above 99 percent of the water in Earth's atmosphere. After 30 January, Spitzer will retire.

Because Spitzer could glimpse what was invisible to optical telescopes, it also revealed some surprises. The additional mission extended the telescope's life for another decade. Spitzer's story is one of what happens when we probe deeper, looking beyond the visible.

For years, Spitzer peered through dusty clouds at untold stars and galaxies, uncovered a huge, almost invisible ring around Saturn, and helped discover seven Earth-size planets around a nearby star. Converting infrared universe images acquired by Spitzer into color images was a laborious digital data compilation.

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