One of NASA’s original great observatories, Spitzer showed us the infrared Universe as never before.
On January 30, 2020, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was retired after a 17 year mission.
Along with Hubble, Compton, and Chandra, Spitzer was the final of NASA’s Great Observatories.
Owing to its location above Earth’s atmosphere, its measurement capabilities were unique.
Until James Webb launches, Spitzer remains humanity’s greatest mid-infrared observatory.
These 22 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 last extended embers of dying Sun-like stars,
- as well as mapping specific elements found in 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.
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.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.