NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope Ends 16-Year Mission of Discovery

NASA’s Spitzer space telescope spotted 7 Earth-size worlds orbiting another star, a new ring around Saturn and many more wonders in space.

Comments: 21

  1. Congratulations on a great run Spitzer! And to all the NASA people who do the hard work which inspires so much from chemistry, to philosophy, to technology and curiosity. Thank you for the armchair view of the cosmos. I’m looking forward to more.

  2. "Its infrared cameras have observed the universe in a light imperceptible to human senses, ..." Infrared radiation is sensed as *heat* by human skin. The difference is that Spitzer's camera detects infrared radiation at *four wavelengths*, so it provides more detailed information about the radiation than human skin. "Although Spitzer’s components are aging, ..." Not exactly. The spacecraft has run out of liquid helium, so two of the four infrared detectors are "too warm to be useful for scientific observations".* The other two sensors are being operated as part of the "Spitzer Warm Mission". A web search for "Spitzer Infrared Array Camera" will find more info. * Per spitzer.caltech.edu web site.

  3. Is it not worth trying to get this back to earth? Is it a danger floating around in space - could it , in time, plummet to earth - intact or in pieces? Wouldn’t this worth having back so future generations could learn about our evolution of knowledge? Can’t Elon Musk just buy it , for goodness sakes? Guess I’m being sentimental and there’s no room for that in science.

  4. "... could it , in time, plummet to earth ..." That's unlikely. Spitzer "follows Earth in its orbit around the sun, but trails 158 million miles behind." There is a much greater hazard from Earth-orbiting spacecraft and from asteroids that cross Earth's orbit. "Wouldn’t this [be] worth having back so future generations could learn about our evolution of knowledge?" There is extensive documentation on Spitzer and associated science in the scientific literature. See, for example: The NASA Spitzer Space Telescope by R. D. Gehrz Review of Scientific Instruments 30 January 2007 A search for "spitzer space telescope" at Google Scholar will find more literature.

  5. Farewell... and thanks for all you've accomplished.

  6. The Farewell is somewhat reminiscent to what people might have for a beloved pet that followed you through life, gave whatever you asked of it and asked for only the care and love of its keepers. The loss to the scientists involved will call for some grieving but a new puppy is on the horizon with a bigger mirror.

  7. @richard wiesner A very nice and apt remembrance. I suspect that in the future, because of AI, these mechanical servants of ours will increasingly be more helpful, but also more demanding; even more like our animal companions.

  8. I love these images and will miss the Spitzer's work - but I look forward to seeing what the Webb will bring us. Thanks so much to NASA for sharing the beauty of the universe with us - and bon voyage to Spitzer! Have a peaceful sojourn after years of useful work.

  9. Every April 15th, when I pay my taxes, I pretend that every dime goes to NASA. Sure, there are problems at NASA (as there are in every organization), but NASA is just one government agency that is stiffed by brilliant scientists who could be making a fortune in the pubic sector, but who choose to serve science, their country, and progress. The US is still the world leader in most areas of science, but another 4 years of Donald Trump and his anti-science, anti-intellectual goons making budgetary decisions and we'll be left behind by the Chinese and other developed countries where climate change and evolution aren't political wedge issues, but simply scientific consensus. Gaze up in wonder at the night sky as often as you can, for sure. But make sure you're registered and make sure you vote for candidates who live in reality.

  10. NASA used to name its space telescopes for famous astronomers (Copernicus, Hubble, Chandrasekhar, Spitzer). The next big one is going to be named for a NASA bureaucrat (Webb). That tells us something about NASA. It's not good.

  11. @Jonathan Katz That's a cheap shot without any context presented. Webb oversaw NASA during thr early stages of American manned space flight, up to Apollo. Check out the Wikipedia article (as James E. Webb) for his background in the military, government, high tech engineering, and NASA. "Bureaucrats" fight for the money and sign the checks that fund the scientists, engineers, and the astronauts and their organizations. The worker-bees wouldn't get very far without them.

  12. @Jonathan Katz James Webb was no Nazi war criminal like Werner Von Braun. Webb was the American Sergei Korolev. Korolev was the legendary engineering managing, organizing and planning genius behind the Soviet Union space program. Korolev's existence and identity was long a state secret.

  13. @Jonathan Katz The Spitzer telescope was named for Lyman Spitzer, the 'father' of the Hubble telescope and it's principal advocate. Spitzer was a very distinguished Princeton astronomer and physicist. I was privileged to have a chance to chat with the gent once. Very down to earth, enjoyed trekking in the high mountains when he wasn't pondering the origins of the universe and the beginning of time.

  14. You can be sure that the infant in the white house has no interest or curiosity regarding the knowledge gained by scientific effort like this.

  15. This is a wonderful example of NASA's contribution to humanity.

  16. I was looking for mention of who - the people, teams, companies - built Spitzer.

  17. What magnificent images. Maybe some billionaire could donate $14 million to keep it running for another year. They wouldn't even notice the money was gone.

  18. Seeing our universe across the light spectrum enlightens and enlivens our curiosity and decreases our ignorance about ' Space the final frontier'.

  19. NASA and the space program were the most important part of my life growing up in the 60's. Gave me hope. In the 90's had the privilege of participating in the selection of the Hubble Telescope release of the first photos of Pluto. Humbled by the experience.

  20. One final thought this evening. Gene Kranz the NASA flight director who brought Apollo 13 home safely is a true American hero.

  21. What a miraculous universe we live in. Keep the awe and wonder and discovery coming, NASA. Sweet dreams, Spitzer.