Spitzer Space Telescope

Spitzer Space Telescope

Overview

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), has the ability to see through thick space dust, enabling the telescope to return unprecedented views of our universe, including a glowing stellar nursery and the swirls of a spiral galaxy.

Spitzer is forging new frontiers in space exploration. Since its launch, the observatory’s infrared sensors have uncovered a hidden universe teeming with embryonic stars, planet-forming disks, and previously unknown galaxies.

The telescope’s instruments were recalibrated in May 2009 to conduct science operations at warmer temperatures. Spitzer’s cryogen was projected to last as little as two-and-a-half years, but its efficient design and careful operations enabled it to last more than five-and-a-half years.

Science discoveries from Spitzer led to the science missions on WISE and the James Webb Space Telescope and are setting the stage for future studies of planets orbiting other stars.

Spitzer Image

Image courtesy of NASA.

Our Role

Ball Aerospace provided the Cryogenic Telescope Assembly (CTA) and two of the three science instruments for Spitzer: the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) designed to provide the telescope with low and moderate spectral-resolution spectroscopic capabilities; and the Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS), a far-infrared instrument designed to provide imaging photometry and scan mapping. The detectors used in these instruments are up to 1,000 times more sensitive than any previous deployed infrared-centered missions.

The CTA is the “eyes” of Sptizer. Its lightweight beryllium telescope and innovative passive thermal control system can detect the faint infrared light produced by cosmic objects. The unique cooling system aboard the CTA allowed a “warm” launch, which was a historical first in space flight.

Once in space, the telescope was cooled to its operating temperature of five degrees above absolute zero (about 450 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit). The warm launch technique greatly reduced the amount of liquid helium coolant needed for a mission between two and one-half years to five years in duration.

Spitzer Image

Image courtesy of NASA.

Spitzer Images

Spitzer provides images and spectra from the infrared energy or heat radiated from celestial objects. Astronomers are using Spitzer to explore the near- and far-infrared universe. Spitzer data are complementary to data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Among other subjects, Spitzer is exploring distant celestial objects, such as young galaxies, quasars, brown dwarfs, and supernovas and planets of nearby stars. It can also observe planets, asteroids, and dust within our solar system.

A part of NASA’s Origins program, Spitzer is the final member of NASA’s family of Great Observatories, which collectively study a wide variety of astronomical phenomena.

Programs

CALIPSO

CloudSat

DSCOVR

EPOXI/Deep Impact

GEMS

GEO-TASO

GDPAA

GMI

Guardian

Green Propellant Infusion Mission

HiRISE

Hubble Space Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope

JPSS

F-35/Lightning II

K2/Kepler

Landsat 8

Mast-Mounted Sight

Mk 20 Camera

MOIRE

New Horizons/Ralph

OMPS

Orion

QuickBird

QuikSCAT

SAGE

SAM

SBSS

SBUV/2

Seasparrow

Sentinel

Spitzer

STORRM

STP-SIV

Suomi NPP

TEMPO

WISE

WorldView spacecraft series

WorldView-1

WorldView-2

WorldView-3