NASA Podcasts

NASA Mission Update: SPITZER
01.20.09
 
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Since it was launched in August 2003, the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared eyes have probed into the most gaseous and dusty areas of our universe to uncover secrets unobservable in visible wavelengths.

Doug Hudgins, NASA Spitzer Program Scientist: "If you’re looking at regions that have a lot of gas and dust in 'em, for instance, the infrared radiation will penetrate much further through that material, whereas visible radiation would be blocked out."

Star-birthing regions of galaxies, massive black holes, the first photographs of planets outside our solar system. Just some of Spitzer's through-the-dust-and-gas discoveries.

Doug Hudgins, NASA Spitzer Program Scientist: "Another advantage of the infrared is it allows us to look back very early in time in our own universe."

Spitzer has also pioneered exploration of the very early, or so-called "high redshift" universe, finding, among other phenomena, fully-formed galaxies much closer in age to the Big Bang than previously believed.

Doug Hudgins, NASA Spitzer Program Scientist: "The further back we go in the universe, the redder things get. Because they're moving away from us so quickly, the light from those objects, from the stars and the galaxies actually get stretched out. Well, by the time we get out to the very earliest stages of our universe, the visible light from objects such as stars and galaxies has been stretched so much that it actually shows up in the infrared region of the spectrum."

Now, almost six years after launch, Spitzer begins its "warm" mission. The coolant that enabled many of its instruments' discoveries is now depleted. But the slightly-warmer telescope will still have two channels of its infrared array camera operating at full capacity, ready to shed "new light" on "unseen" mysteries of the universe, including what other Earth-like planets may be in our galactic neighborhood.

Doug Hudgins, NASA Spitzer Program Scientist: "Until we can begin to understand the characteristics of many planetary systems, only at that point will we begin to understand whether what we see around is typical or not typical of planetary systems in the universe. And that's one of the key things that Spitzer's gonna be able to continue to contribute to during its "warm" mission."

For more about the Spitzer Space Telescope, its contributions to science, and its new "warm" mission, visit www.nasa.gov/spitzer. › View Now