NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Celebrates 10 Years in Space

By  //  October 11, 2013

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launched FROM cape canaveral in 2003

A montage of images taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope over the years. (NASA.gov image)

A montage of images taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope over the years. (NASA.gov image)

BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – Ten years after a Delta II rocket launched NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, lighting up the night sky over Cape Canaveral, Fla., the fourth of the agency’s four Great Observatories continues to illuminate the dark side of the cosmos with its infrared eyes.

Massive stars can wreak havoc on their surroundings, as can be seen in this new view of the Carina nebula from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA.gov)

Massive stars can wreak havoc on their surroundings, as can be seen in this new view of the Carina nebula from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA.gov)

The telescope studied comets and asteroids, counted stars, scrutinized planets and galaxies, and discovered soccer-ball-shaped carbon spheres in space called buckyballs.

Moving into its second decade of scientific scouting from an Earth-trailing orbit, Spitzer continues to explore the cosmos near and far.

One additional task is helping NASA observe potential candidates for a developing mission to capture, redirect and explore a near-Earth asteroid.

The spectacular swirling arms and central bar of the Sculptor galaxy are revealed in this new view from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA.gov image)

The spectacular swirling arms and central bar of the Sculptor galaxy are revealed in this new view from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA.gov image)

“President Obama’s goal of visiting an asteroid by 2025 combines NASA’s diverse talents in a unified endeavor,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science in Washington.

“Using Spitzer to help us characterize asteroids and potential targets for an asteroid mission advances both science and exploration.”

This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Helix nebula, a cosmic starlet often photographed by amateur astronomers for its vivid colors and eerie resemblance to a giant eye. (NASA.gov image)

This infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Helix nebula, a cosmic starlet often photographed by amateur astronomers for its vivid colors and eerie resemblance to a giant eye. (NASA.gov image)

Spitzer’s infrared vision lets it see the far, cold and dusty side of the universe. Close to home, the telescope has studied the comet dubbed Tempel 1, which was hit by NASA’s Deep Impact mission in 2005.

Spitzer showed the composition of Tempel 1 resembled that of solar systems beyond our own.

Spitzer also surprised the world by discovering the largest of Saturn’s many rings.

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