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15 years of space for NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope



This picture shows the impression of an artist from the Spitzer Space Telescope. The background shows an infrared image of Spitzer the Milky Way level. Credits: NASA / JPL

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, originally planned for a 2.5-year main mission, has gone far beyond its expected lifetime ̵

1; and is still strong after 15 years.

On Aug. 25, 2003, Spitzer was the finale of NASA's four major observatories to reach outer space. The Space Telescope has illuminated some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, discovered a new ring around Saturn, and spotted dust clouds to study newborn stars and black holes. Spitzer helped discover planets outside our solar system, including the discovery of seven planet-sized planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1.

"In the 15 years of his work, Spitzer has opened our eyes to new ways to look at the universe," said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA headquarters in Washington. "Spitzer's discoveries range from our own planetary backyard to planets around other stars to the distant regions of the universe, and in collaboration with NASA's other major observatories, scientists have helped scientists obtain a more complete picture of many cosmic phenomena."

The impression of this artist shows what the seven planet-sized planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system could look like. based on available data. There are no real pictures of the planets. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech

A glimpse into the past

Spitzer detects infrared light – mostly heat radiation from warm objects. On Earth, infrared light is used in a variety of applications, including night vision devices.

With his infrared view and high sensitivity, Spitzer has contributed to the exploration of some of the most distant galaxies in the known universe. The light from some of these galaxies traveled for 13.4 billion years to reach Earth. As a result, scientists see these galaxies as they were less than 400 million years after the birth of the universe.

Among this population of ancient galaxies, scientists were struck by a surprise: "big baby" galaxies, much larger and more mature than scientists thought could be early-stage galaxies. It is believed that large, modern galaxies were formed by the gradual merging of smaller galaxies. But the "Big Baby" galaxies showed that very early in the history of the universe, massive collections of stars merged.

Studies of these distant galaxies were based on data from Spitzer and the Hubble Space Telescope, another large NASA observatory. Each of the four Great Observatories collects light in a different wavelength range. By combining their observations of different objects and regions, scientists can gain a more complete picture of the universe.

"The Great Observatories program was truly a brilliant concept," said Michael Werner, Spitzer project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The idea of ​​obtaining multispectral imagery or data on astrophysical phenomena is very compelling because most celestial bodies produce radiation across the spectrum, and an average galaxy like our own Milky Way emits, for example, as much infrared light as visible wavelength light, every part of the spectrum provides new information. "

New Worlds

In recent years, scientists have used sharpeners to explore exoplanets or planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, although that was nothing Telescopes have foreseen this.

With Spitzer's help, researchers have studied planets with hot surfaces like stars, others frozen as solid and many in between. Spitzer has examined some of the closest known exoplanets to Earth and some of the most distant exoplanets ever discovered.

Spitzer also played a key role in one of history's most significant exoplanet discoveries: the discovery of seven gross size planets orbiting a single star. The TRAPPIST 1 planetary system was unlike any alien solar system ever discovered. Three of his seven planets were in the "habitable zone" where the temperature for liquid water on the planet's surfaces could be right. Her discovery was a tantalizing step in the search for life in the universe.

"The study of the extrasolar planets was still in its infancy when Spitzer started, but in recent years, more than half of the Spitzer observation time is often used to study exoplanets or exoplanets," said Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, Spitzer's project manager at the JPL. "Spitzer is very good at characterizing exoplanets, even if it was not intended."

An important part of Spitzer's scientific legacy was the study of very distant objects in the universe. Scientists combined the power of NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes to study a variety of extremely distant galaxies. The white circled objects are galaxies that belong to a nascent galaxy cluster. This proto-cluster is one of the most distant ever identified. Credits: Subaru / NASA / JPL-Caltech

Other important discoveries with the Spitzer Space Telescope are:

– The largest known ring around Saturn, a fine, fine structure with 300 times the diameter of Saturn [19659003] – First Exoplanet weather map of temperature fluctuations over the surface of a gas exoplanet. The results indicated strong winds

– asteroid and planet smashups. Spitzer has found evidence of several rock collisions in other solar systems, including two large asteroids.

– Recipe for "comet soup". Spitzer observed the consequences of the collision between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and Comet Temple 1. Finding the comet material in our own solar system is similar to using it near stars.

– The hidden caves of newborn stars. Spitzer's infrared images have provided unprecedented insights into the hidden cradles where young stars grow up and revolutionize our understanding of star births.

– Buckyballs in space. Buckyballs are football-shaped carbon molecules that have been discovered in laboratory research with several technological applications on Earth.

– Massive galaxy clusters. Spitzer has identified many more distant clusters of galaxies than previously known.

– One of the Milky Way's most comprehensive maps ever compiled, including the most accurate map of the large star-shaped galaxy in the center of the galaxy, created with Spitzer data from the Galactic Legacy Project "Extraordinaire" (GLIMPSE).

In this dynamic image of the Dark Cloud by Rho Ophiuchi from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, newborn stars under its birth cover look like dust. Spitzer observes infrared light, which in most cases can penetrate gas and dust clouds better than visible light. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

An Extended Journey

Spitzer has logged 106 000 hours of observation time. Thousands of scientists around the world have used Spitzer data in their studies, and Spitzer data is cited in more than 8,000 published papers.

Spitzer's main mission ended over 5.5 years, during which time the spacecraft operated in a "cold phase". "With a supply of liquid helium, three instruments cooled to just above zero, the cooling system reduced excess heat from the instruments themselves, which could contaminate their observations, giving Spitzer a very high sensitivity to" cold "objects.

Im Spitzer's main instrument, the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), has four cameras, two of which continue to be in the warm phase with the same sensitivity, as of July 2009, after Spitzer's helium supply had expired

Spitzer orbits the Sun in a near-Earth orbit (meaning that it literally lags behind the Earth when the planet orbits the Sun) and continues to move farther and farther throughout its lifetime fallen behind the earth, this is now a challenge for the spacecraft, because while it is data on Earth e downloads, his solar panels are not directly facing the sun. Therefore, Spitzer must use battery power while downloading data. The batteries are then recharged between downloads.

"Spitzer is further away from Earth than we would have thought while still in service," said Sean Carey, manager of the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. "That presented the engineering team with real challenges and they were extremely creative and resourceful to operate Spitzer well beyond its expected lifetime."

In 2016, Spitzer entered an expanded mission called "Spitzer Beyond", a spacecraft to continue operations in November 2019, more than 10 years after entering the warm phase.

To celebrate Spitzer's 15-year space mission, NASA has launched two new multimedia products: the NASA Selfies App for iOS and Android, and the Exoplanet Excursions VR Experience for Oculus and Vive, as well as a 360-video version for smartphones , Spitzer's incredible discoveries and amazing imagery are at the heart of these new products.


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