Today, NASA announced the official closure of the Spitzer Space Telescope, which has been in operation for 16 years. Launched in 2003, the large infrared telescope was initially planned to carry out a major mission of at least 2.5 years, but eventually ran far beyond its design life. Unlike the optical-based Hubble telescope, Spitzer can detect infrared radiation from celestial bodies, which is extremely sensitive and makes important contributions to observing distant stars, understanding the evolution of galaxies in the universe, the structure of the Milky Way, and the composition of the solar system.
Spitzer is one of the four observatories NASA uses to study various celestial bodies. Launched on August 25, 2003, the space telescope has been studying the universe in infrared light since its launch. Spitzer was used to conduct some of the earliest studies of the atmosphere of exoplanets. It was also used to identify two exoplanets and found five of the seven Earth-sized exoplanets around Trappist I.
The Spitzer space operation is being conducted by Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. JPL is responsible for managing Spitzer’s mission in Washington. The science operation is managed by the Spitzer Center for Science at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The data is archived at the Infrared Science Archives of California Institute of Technology IPAC.
NASA says Spitzer’s infrared probe must be cooled to extremely low temperatures to ensure the infrared sensors are not damaged, and Spitzer’s coolant was depleted in 2009, rendering some of the instruments unusable, and the mission team has been working in recent years to keep the remaining instruments running. However, as problems such as hardware aging became more serious, the challenge of maintaining the telescope and the increasing riskto the telescope itself, the task force decided to end its mission in a controlled manner.
NASA says that while Spitzer’s mission is coming to an end, it has laid a solid foundation for the observation mission of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled for launch in 2021.