Focus on spitzer’s 15 years
We take a look at the mission’s best bits this month
Amission originally planned for just two-and-a-half years in space is now celebrating its 15th anniversary; a remarkable achievement for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Launched on the 25 August 2003 into a solar orbit, this telescope has been using its infrared-sensitive equipment to reveal the hidden gems of the cosmos.
This space telescope was the fourth and final instalment of NASA’s Great Observatories program, and it has been able to view the great beyond in a light that is unperceivable to the human eye, revealing marvellous details about our Solar
System and beyond. In terms of numbers the spacecraft posts some amazing figures, given its initial 2.5-year primary mission. It has logged over 106,000 hours of observation time and has citations in over 8,000 published papers, and that’s not including the countless images produced.
This journey hasn’t been without its troubles though. In July 2009 the spacecraft entered a ‘warm phase’ as the liquid helium supply, which was keeping the instruments at sub-zero temperatures, had depleted. Only two of the four cameras that make up the esteemed Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) could operate with the same sensitivity as they would in the ‘cold phase’.
"In its 15 years of operations, Spitzer has opened our eyes to new ways of viewing the universe," says Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Spitzer’s discoveries extend from our own planetary backyard, to planets around other stars, to the far reaches of the universe.
And by working in collaboration with NASA’s other Great Observatories, Spitzer has helped scientists gain a more complete picture of many cosmic phenomena."
“Spitzer has been able to view the great beyond in a light that is unperceivable to the human eye”