On January 30, 2020, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was retired after 17 years.
Joining Hubble, Compton, and Chandra, Spitzer was the final of NASA’s original Great Observatories.
High above Earth’s atmosphere, its infrared measurement capabilities were unprecedented.
Spitzer reigned as humanity’s greatest mid-infrared observatory until JWST’s operations began.
These 23 images highlight its greatest achievements.
Among them, Spitzer excelled at measuring:
- ultra-distant objects whose light is severely redshifted,
- cool objects, which emit very little optical light,
- obscured objects located behind light-blocking dust,
- interstellar gas that’s heated by nearby stars,
- remnants and ejecta from dying or recently deceased stars,
- including supernovae and remnants,
- as well as planetary nebulae,
- the final, luminous embers of dying Sun-like stars,
- as well as mapping specific elements within nearby galaxies.
Interacting galaxies are doubly spectacular.
extended star formation,
and dead, quiet galaxies all appear.
Spitzer also offered a unique perspective on otherwise familiar objects.
Messier 83 shows a miniature Milky Way.
Visible jets appear around M87’s supermassive black hole.
The Crab Nebula looks vaguely familiar,
much like the Orion Nebula.
But no one had ever seen so many supermassive black holes all together.
Farewell, Spitzer, and thanks for all the science.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.