NASA Podcasts

Spitzer's Warm Mission
05.06.09
 
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Spitzer's Warm Mission
A New Career

Michelle Thaller/ Spitzer Astronomer
In order to understand how the universe works, you have to be able to see it across the electromagnetic spectrum – all the different kinds of light that there are. Now, in visible light, what we're used to, you can see me, I can hold up a coffee cup for example, and it doesn't look particularly interesting. But in infrared it becomes this glowing object that you could see all the way across the universe if you had heat sensitive eyes.

Title:
Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope sees infrared light.

Michelle Thaller/ Spitzer Astronomer
The Spitzer mission has completely re-written the textbooks when it comes to infrared astronomy. The world has changed.

Michael Werner/Spitzer Project Scientist
I couldn't imagine that it wasn't going to work, but I had no conception that it would work as well as it has.

Michelle Thaller/ Spitzer Astronomer
We started out observing incredible star-forming regions where we could look inside the dark dust, see the first moments of star's and planet's lives, but that was just the beginning.

Spitzer has also made one of the first really accurate maps of the Milky Way galaxy.
We were the first mission to directly detect light from an exoplanet -- really say this light is not coming from a star but from a planet.

Michael Werner/Spitzer Project Scientist
We've gone ahead to start characterizing what their atmospheres are made of, the composition, the dynamics.

Michelle Thaller/ Spitzer Astronomer
And from that, we made the first crude but real weather maps of what weather on planets that are 200 light years away is like.

Title:
After more than five years, Spitzer is completing its original assignment and beginning a new career.

Michelle Thaller/ Spitzer Astronomer
Spitzer has to be very, very cold, because of course, it's observing heat from things that are literally billions of miles away. We have a coolant, which is only a few degrees above absolute zero.

Michael Werner/Spitzer Project Scientist
And we knew that eventually we'd reach the day when that last ounce of liquid helium boiled away.

Bob Wilson/Spitzer Project Manager
Spitzer will be transitioning into a warm mission. It's really not very warm, but it's warmer than the cold mission was.

Michelle Thaller/ Spitzer Astronomer
Warming up a little bit means that two of our three instruments will no longer be functioning. However, the instrument that will still be around, the infrared array camera, is the one that's responsible for most of the gorgeous imagery that you see coming out of Spitzer.

Bob Wilson/Spitzer Project Manager
We will be able to do larger mapping than we've been able to do in the past.

Michael Werner/Spitzer Project Scientist
We'll be looking at warmer objects, more stars than planets themselves and at asteroids.

Michelle Thaller/ Spitzer Astronomer
The Spitzer Space Telescope is by no means done with its mission. Things have changed but I kind of think of it as a second career.

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