7 Greatest Discoveries By Spitzer Space Telescope

(Last Updated On: February 10, 2020)

Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly also known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility was initially launched on August 25, 2003. Originally, the mission was designed for 2.5 years, but after observing its outstanding and marvelous discoveries, it’s timespan was extended to 5 years. One of NASA’s 5 greatest observatories, Spitzer was able to see and reveal the mysterious features of the universe.

NASA's 5 Greatest Observatories (Spitzer Space Telescope)
NASA’s 5 Greatest Observatories (Credit: Chandra X-Ray Observatory)

Warm objects inside our universe do not always emit radiation in the visible spectrum of light. There are different types of spectrum in which objects emit heat. Infrared radiation has wavelengths longer than that of visible light, making it significant for the observation of the cosmos.

Electromagnetic Waves
Electromagnetic Waves

Taking this into account, we can say that the Universe has been playing hide and seek with us. Spitzer Space Telescope worked by playing the same game with the universe and capturing these infrared radiations emitted by the distant cosmic objects. It gave us significant insight into the Universe which has led to some exciting discoveries. Here are the top 7 discoveries by Spitzer Space Telescope-

7. Light From Very First Stars

The light emitted from the first generation of stars would have been emitted around 13 billion years ago. Therefore, they would have been redshifted towards the infrared spectrum making it almost impossible to observe them with the optical telescopes but not for Spitzer. It is exciting to think that just an 85 cm long infrared telescope would have been able to detect light emitted only a few hundred million years after the big bang.

Read Also: The Pre Big Bang Hypothesis – Before The Big Bang

6. Buckyballs In Space

Buckyballs In Space (Spitzer Space Telescope))
Buckyballs In Space (Credit: NASA/JPL)

The Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered the ‘celebrity’ molecule – Buckyball. It comprises of 60 carbon atoms resembling a football. The interstellar medium between the stars seemingly contains these molecules known as Buckminsterfullerene.

5. Oldest Galaxy Ever Known

Spitzer helped discover the oldest and most distant known galaxy ever known. Its name is GN-z11.

Galaxy - GN-z11 (Spitzer Space Telescope)
Galaxy – GN-z11 (Credit: NASA)

This galaxy was identified by teams of Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope. Having a stellar age of 40 million years, it is about 1/25th the size of Milky Way Galaxy and its mass is about 1% of it.

4. First-Ever Exoplanet Weather Map

Spitzer Space Telescope was able to frame the first-ever map of the surface of an exoplanet, a gas giant called HD189744b. Though Spitzer was never truly designed for this purpose, to study the planets beyond our solar system, it still has managed to surprise us with its extraordinary impressive performance.

3. Faraway Black Holes

Because of the excellent aperture and the high definition images of the Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA often used it to discover and observe the nature of the most distant nebulae as well as the black holes present inside nearby galaxies. Black Holes do not emit radiation in the visible spectrum of light but in the infrared spectrum. Therefore, Spitzer has been known to give the best observations of the black hole till now.

2. The Largest Hidden Ring Around Saturn

Largest Hidden Ring Around Saturn (Spitzer Space Telescope)
Saturn’s Ring (Credit: NASA)

Spitzer was able to gather the stunning images of the hidden rings surrounding Saturn often referred to as the Phoebe ring. Originating from the satellite Phoebe, it is now more than 200 times as big as across the Saturn itself. This ring is really strange, it is tilted and probably orbits backward.

1. Seven Earth-Like Planets Around A Star

TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool dwarf star located at a distance of 40 light-years away from us. At first, scientists thought that there were only 3 exoplanets orbiting the dwarf star but on Feb 22, 2017, Spitzer Space Telescope discovered that the system has 7 Earth-like planets. Apparently, the first 3 planets lie in the habitable zone of the star and could host intelligent life also.

TRAPPIST-1 System (Spitzer Space Telescope)
TRAPPIST-1 System (Credit: NASA)

After 16 years of unparalleled discoveries of the concealed features of the cosmos, the journey of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has finally come to an end. On 30th January 2020, NASA decided to shut down the telescope. Future infrared observatories will build upon the legacy of Spitzer and will try to finish what Spitzer started.

Farewell, Spitzer. Float in Peace.

Read Also: NASA Has Discovered New Super-Earth – TOI 700D

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This Article is Written By Sukhjit Singh & Mallika.

Krishan Kumar

Krishan Kumar

A Physics Enthusiast, An Entrepreneur and A Motivational Speaker, Krishan Kumar, A multi-talented personality has been portraying the role of a Science Communicator for the past 4 years. He has the utmost passion for Physics. He is truly in fact, a physicist-in-process. He is also the Co-Founder of CosmosNow (India’s First Independent Astronomy Magazine) and Fastika (A Delivery System Startup).

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