What is the Spitzer Telescope?

Space telescopes are an integral part of space exploration, allowing us to study space objects up close and record fascinating data that helps us better understand what lies beyond our home planet.  Many telescopes have come and gone throughout NASA’s colorful history, but without a doubt, one that has captured imaginations like few others is the Spitzer Telescope.

So, what exactly is the Spitzer Telescope?  Well, it’s a telescope that observes the universe in terms of light wavelengths using infrared technology.  Infrared technology has been a mainstay of space exploration for a long time, but the Spitzer Telescope has been unique in the way in which it can gather a large amount of data in a highly efficient way.  The Spitzer Telescope was part of the NASA Great Observatories Program that launched several telescopes into space, with each being capable of recording data in its own unique way.

Launched in 2003, the Spitzer Telescope is set to retire in January of 2020.  This telescope requires liquid helium to keep its temperature cool, as it must be below a certain temperature in order to operate properly.  The problem is that onboard, liquid helium is in a limited supply.  So, it should be running out of liquid helium imminently, which means that its mission will end after an admirable 17 years of service to NASA.

Because of its use of infrared technology, the Spitzer Telescope utilizes an infrared camera that operates on four distinct wavelengths.  This allows it to record information regarding the heat and light of space objects while providing the general public with absolutely stunning imagery of the solar system.  The Spitzer Telescope was the first space telescope to record images of exoplanets, a feat that was not possible prior to its development.  It’s also provided us with great insight into the life cycles of space objects.  For example, in 2005, the Spitzer Telescope picked up a planetary disk that provided us with clues as to how planets are formed.  And, in 2004, it most likely picked up images of the youngest star to ever have been observed in space.  Later, the Spitzer Telescope likely captured images of the oldest known stars in our galaxy.  Its incredible sensitivity to light has allowed it to provide us with images that we would never have seen otherwise, and, as a result, introduce us to space objects previously invisible with our once-limited technology.

Because of its unique versatility, the Spitzer Telescope has been used by various astronomers and space exploration groups over the years.  Each entity interested in using the telescope has submitted a proposal to NASA, trying to convince the organization that the Spitzer Telescope would be absolutely crucial for the data that they were trying to record.  Due to this, the telescope has been widely used for various assignments, and has given us, as a result, a wealth of information.  Images recorded by the Spitzer Telescope are available to the general public, allowing us to appreciate space in new ways thanks to the unique images that it picks up.

The Spitzer Telescope has also evolved over the years.  As each mission has given NASA more insight into space, engineers have modified the telescope to pick up more data than ever before.  As a result, it’s been one of the most frequently used telescopes in NASA history.

While we prepare to say goodbye to the Spitzer Telescope, we can’t help but be in awe of the astounding images that it has given us over the years.  Now that it’s on its way out, we know that NASA will replace it with even more advanced observation technology in the near future.  For now, let’s enjoy the breathtaking photographs that the Spitzer Telescope has allowed us to enjoy.

  • Dec 20, 2019
  • Category: Blog
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