NASA bids farewell to iconic Spitzer Space Telescope

James Marshall
February 4, 2020

The Spitzer Space Telescope is a space-borne observatory, one of the elements of NASA's Great Observatories that include the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray.

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

Having outlived its minimal mission lifetime of two-and-a-half years, Spitzer can be put in hibernation Thursday after the telescope returns its last science knowledge Wednesday. After 30 January, Spitzer will retire.

But the £1.07billion ($1.4billion) mission has proven too costly for NASA to maintain, with the agency failing to secure the funding needed to keep Spitzer alive.

"Spitzer taught us how important infrared light is to understanding our universe, both in our own cosmic neighbourhood and as far away as the most distant galaxies", said NASA Director of Astrophysics Paul Hertz in a press release announcing the Spritzer's final transmission.

By seeing through dust, "we're lifting the cosmic veil on the universe", Dodd said. "This mission stays with you", Mr. Hunt said.

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.

Spitzer, the NASA astronomers said, also found a previously undetected ring around Saturn, composed of sparse dust particles that visible-light observatories can not see. The observation study of TRAPPIST-1 caused Spitzer to be recognized by the whole world.

Now he will be allowed to hibernate among the stars he once studied. Trying to understand the life cycles of white dwarf stars with Spitzer also provided information about young stars. Spitzer gave scientists this chance.

An estimated 4,000 scientists around the world took part in the observations and published almost 9,000 studies, according to NASA.

Because Spitzer could glimpse what was invisible to optical telescopes, it also revealed some surprises. The space telescope spotted a wispy ring around the planet that hadn't been detected before - and it's huge. Converting infrared universe images acquired by Spitzer into color images was a laborious digital data compilation.

Rochester astronomers, from left, Dan Watson, Bill Forrest, and Judith Pipher helped develop the detectors used in the Spitzer telescope's infrared "eyes". As Caltech Associate Research Scientist Luisa Rebull told The Verge, "We're going to be learning things out of the Spitzer archive for decades to come".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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