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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

August 29, 2013 08:22 IST

NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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NASA's infrared eye on the universe -- the Spitzer Space Telescope -- has marked its tenth year in space and it is still going strong.

Report: PTI

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Image: A dying star is throwing a cosmic tantrum in this combined image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA

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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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Ten years after a Delta II rocket launched NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, lighting up the night sky, the fourth of the US space agency's four Great Observatories continues to illuminate the dark side of the cosmos with its infrared eyes.

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Image: This cloud of glowing gas is the Iris nebula, as seen in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA
Tags: NASA , Spitzer , US

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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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

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Image: An alien world just two-thirds the size of Earth detected by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA
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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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

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Image: Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of dust in this dynamic image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA
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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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

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Image: Astronomers uncovered patterns of light that appear to be from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe observed by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA
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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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"Using Spitzer to help us characterise asteroids and potential targets for an asteroid mission advances both science and exploration," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington.

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Image: The swirling landscape of stars known as the North American nebula is shown in this image observed by Spitzer telescope
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA

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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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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.

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Image: The infrared vision of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope showing the Sombrero Galaxy
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA

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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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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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Image: The Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy in infrared light seen by the Herschel Space Observatory and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA

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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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The enormous ring, a wispy band of ice and dust particles, is very faint in visible light, but Spitzer's infrared detectors were able to pick up the glow from its heat.

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Image: Looking like a spider's web swirled into a spiral, the galaxy IC 342 presents its delicate pattern of dust in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA
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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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Spitzer's most astonishing finds came from beyond our solar system. The telescope was the first to detect light coming from a planet outside our solar system, a feat not in the mission's original design.

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Image: This glowing emerald nebula seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA
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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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With Spitzer's ongoing studies of these exotic worlds, astronomers have been able to probe their composition, dynamics and more, revolutionising the study of exoplanet atmospheres, said NASA.

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Image: The region around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy glows colorfully in this image taken by Spitzer telescope.
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA
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NASA's Spitzer telescope @ 10: Gems from the universe!

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Other discoveries and accomplishments of the mission include getting a complete census of forming stars in nearby clouds; making a new and improved map of the Milky Way's spiral-arm structure and, with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, discovering that the most distant galaxies known are more massive and mature than expected.

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Image: NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a distant planet named upsilon Andromedae b.
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA

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In October, Spitzer will attempt infrared observations of a small near-Earth asteroid named 2009 DB to better determine its size, a study that will assist NASA in understanding potential candidates for the agency's asteroid capture and redirection mission. This asteroid is one of many candidates the agency is evaluating.


Image: The Spitzer Space Telescope prior to launch
Photographs: Courtesy: NASA/Wikimedia Commons
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