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NASA Just Said a Heartbreaking Final Goodbye to The Spitzer Space Telescope

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After 6,002 days in space, NASA has finally withdrawn its revolutionary Spitzer Space Telescope. On January 30, mission control downloaded the latest Spitzer data and sent through the final command to enter Safe Mode. At 14:34 PST, Joseph Hunt, Spitzer Project Manager, officially declared the deactivation of the Spitzer space telescope. Spitzer was one of NASA’s four great observers, along with the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra’s X-ray observatory and Compton’s gamma-ray observatory. He showed us an incredible infrared vision of the cosmos.

NASA Spitzer

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At 2:34 pm PST on Jan. 30, 2020, Spitzer Project Manager Joseph Hunt declared the Spitzer spacecraft decommissioned.

Farewell, Spitzer. Thank you for the great science. 👋#SpitzerFinalVoyagehttps://go.nasa.gov/2vBoaKO 

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope Ends Mission of Astronomical Discovery

After more than 16 years studying the universe in infrared light, revealing new wonders in our solar system, our galaxy, and beyond, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope’s mission has come to an end.

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The telescope was launched in 2003 and, although its mission was only planned for five years, it exceeded all expectations. Eventually, Spitzer was operational for nearly 16 and a half years. At the time of its launch, it was the most sensitive infrared instrument ever built and revealed many of the hidden secrets of the universe. Among his many discoveries, Spitzer was the first telescope to detect direct light from exoplanets. It revealed a new ring around Saturn. It helped discover four of the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system and also characterize those planets. Spitzer has returned to peek at the dawn of time. And his observations helped identify and study the most distant galaxy we have ever found.

cat paw nebula

The Cat’s Paw Nebula. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“Spitzer taught us about completely new aspects of the cosmos and made us take many steps forward to understand how the universe works, to answer questions about our origins and if we are alone,” said astrophysicist Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Science of NASA Mission direction. Now, Spitzer’s legacy isn’t over yet. Its extended mission was a valuable precursor to the James Webb Space Telescope, due to its launch in 2021; will include even more advanced infrared instruments in its impressive suite.

Spitzer paved the way for Webb. Scientists have used it to refine the way infrared astronomy is conducted, and the fascinating objectives studied using Spitzer will be followed with Webb for even more detailed observations. And of course the infrared images of the retired telescope Universe – which show wavelengths not visible to human eyes – were simply so incredibly beautiful.

heart milky way

The heart of the Milky Way. (NASA, JPL-Caltech, Susan Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) et al.)

“I think Spitzer is an example of the best people can get,” said astronomer Michael Werner, Spitzer Space Telescope Project Scientist. “I feel very lucky to have worked on this mission and to have seen the ingenuity, the dizziness and the genius shown by the team people. When you draw on those things and authorize people to use them, then really incredible things will happen.” Spitzer is not in Earth’s orbit, but in Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Now that the final shutdown command has been sent, it will reorient itself, pointing its antenna directly to the Sun. From here, it will begin to drift. In about 53 years, it will swing beyond the Earth again, but instead of continuing to orbit the Sun, it will continue to go out into space; in infinite stars it has shown us so much.

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