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NASA is decommissioning the Spitzer Space Telescope

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Artist’s rendering of the Spitzer Area Telescope. Picture Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which has studied the universe in infrared mild since its launch in August of 2003, will probably be decommissioned on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

The space-based observatory has been an actual trooper and has operated greater than 11 years past its authentic deliberate operational life. The spacecraft follows a heliocentric orbit and has slowly drifted away from Earth since its deployment. This growing distance requires the instrument’s photo voltaic panels be tilted away from the Solar when its antenna is pointed towards Earth to return information. 

Spitzer is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. It’s one among NASA’s 4 “Great Observatories,” together with the long-lasting Hubble Area Telescope (HST), the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Spitzer was one of NASA's four "Great Observatories." Image Credit: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech

Spitzer was one among NASA’s 4 “Nice Observatories.” Picture Credit score: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech

Yearly, the period of time Spitzer can talk with Earth earlier than having to recharge its photo voltaic panels will increase, which means it’s changing into much less and fewer environment friendly.

“You’ll be able to have a world-class spacecraft, however it doesn’t imply something for those who can’t ship the information again residence,” said Spitzer mission supervisor Joseph Hunt.

Throughout its greater than 16 years of operation, Spitzer has imaged stars at each stage of their lives and noticed the universe’s most distant galaxies and colourful nebulae. It mapped the Milky Method galaxy and even found 5 of the seven exoplanets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1.

As a result of it senses warmth reasonably than seen mild, Spitzer is able to seeing phenomena that will in any other case be invisible, comparable to sure options of the Milky Method and really distant stars.

NASA Spitzer Space Telescope in Clean Room photo credit Carleton Bailie SpaceFlight Insider

Spitzer previous to its launch in August of 2003. Photograph Credit score: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

Spitzer was initially geared up with a passive cooling system, by which coolant was used to maintain its science devices from overheating. The coolant ran out in 2009, leading to two of the telescope’s three devices changing into unusable.

Even with only one instrument functioning, the telescope continued to make notable discoveries throughout its prolonged mission, together with followup research of exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite tv for pc (TESS) planet hunter.

Scientists additionally mixed Spitzer‘s exoplanet observations with these of the Hubble and Kepler telescopes.

In our personal photo voltaic system, Spitzer found a really massive ring round Saturn, which is extraordinarily exhausting to see in seen mild as a result of its particles are so diffuse. Discovered with the telescope’s longer-wavelength infrared digicam, this outer ring orbits at a 27-degree tilt to Saturn’s principal ring airplane and extends so far as 7.four million miles from the planet.

Throughout its later years, scientists working Spitzer needed to place its photo voltaic panels so far as 53 levels away from the Solar to return information to Earth, although the unique intention was to place them no additional than 30 levels from the Solar. In addition they needed to override mechanisms that ordinarily would have put the telescope into protected mode.

“I can genuinely say that nobody concerned within the mission planning thought we’d be working in 2019. However now we have an extremely strong spacecraft and an unimaginable staff,” emphasised Spitzer challenge supervisor Lisa Storrie-Lombardi.

On Wednesday, January 22, at 1 PM EST, NASA will host a stay broadcast to debate the tip of Spitzer‘s mission and have a good time its quite a few accomplishments. Mission supervisor Joseph Hunt, former mission supervisor Suzanne Dodd, NASA Director of Astrophysics Paul Hertz, challenge scientist Mike Werner, and astrophysicist Farisa Morales will participate in this system.

The published will air stay on NASA’s website, NASA TV, Facebook Live, Ustream, YouTube, and Twitter.

Spitzer’s work will probably be continued by NASA’s James Webb Area Telescope (JWST), scheduled for launch in 2021.

Video courtesy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory





Laurel Kornfeld is an beginner astronomer and freelance author from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass School, Rutgers College, and earned a Graduate Certificates of Science from Swinburne College’s Astronomy On-line program. Her writings have been revealed on-line in The Atlantic, Astronomy journal’s visitor weblog part, the UK Area Convention, the 2009 IAU Common Meeting newspaper, The Area Reporter, and newsletters of varied astronomy golf equipment. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Newbie Astronomers, Inc. Particularly within the outer photo voltaic system, Laurel gave a quick presentation on the 2008 Nice Planet Debate held on the Johns Hopkins College Utilized Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

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