Spitzer Space Telescope to retire in 2020: NASA

Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in January 1983 as Infrared Astronomical Satellite, jointly developed by the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Created On: Jun 14, 2019 17:59 IST
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R Hurt
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R Hurt

Spitzer space telescope of NASA will be retired on January 30, 2020, confirmed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a statement. Spitzer is going to shut down permanently after about 16 years of exploring the cosmos in infrared light. By 2020, Spitzer space telescope will have operated for more than 11 years beyond its prime mission.

It was launched in January 1983 as Infrared Astronomical Satellite, jointly developed by the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, to conduct the first infrared survey of the sky. Spitzer is the only one of the Great Observatories not launched by the Space Shuttle, as was originally intended.

About Spitzer

•    Spitzer is a small but transformational observatory. It captures infrared light, which is often emitted by 'warm' objects that are not quite hot enough to radiate visible light.
•    Spitzer lifted the veil on hidden objects in nearly every corner of the universe, from a new ring around Saturn to observations of some of the most distant galaxies known.
•    In 2017, the telescope revealed the presence of seven rocky planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star.
•    In some cases, Spitzer's observations were combined with observations by other missions, including NASA's Kepler and Hubble space telescopes.

Spitzer Mission Overview

Spitzer's highly sensitive instruments allow scientists to peer into cosmic regions that are hidden from optical telescopes, including dusty stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies, and newly forming planetary systems. Spitzer's infrared eyes also allows astronomers see cooler objects in space, like failed stars (brown dwarfs), extrasolar planets, giant molecular clouds, and organic molecules that may hold the secret to life on other planets.

Spitzer was originally built to last for a minimum of 2.5 years, but it lasted in the cold phase for over 5.5 years. On May 15, 2009 the coolant was finally depleted and the Spitzer "warm mission" began.  Operating with 2 channels from one of its instruments called IRAC, Spitzer can continue to operate until late in this decade.

What’s next?

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2021, which will study the universe in many of the same wave-lengths observed by Spitzer. It is a large, space-based observatory, optimized for infrared wavelengths, which will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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