Goodbye, Spitzer — NASA Will Shut Down Its Spitzer Space Telescope

After 16 years of reveling the mysteries of the Universe, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope will end its journey on January 30. NASA will hold a special press conference on January 22 for its 16-year telescope. The conference will air live on NASA Television, Facebook Live, Ustream, YouTube, Twitter, and the agency’s website.

Launched into space on 25 August 2003, Spitzer got its name from the astronomer Lyman Spitzer, who had promoted the concept of space telescopes in the 1940s. This was decided from a contest open to the general public.

Initially planned to be used for 2.5 years, the Spitzer Telescope was entirely operable until 15 May 2009, when the liquid helium supply was exhausted. Without the liquid helium to cool it, the telescope no longer reached the very low temperatures needed to operate. Because of it, most of the instruments were no longer usable.

NASA will shut down its Spitzer Space Telescope

Spitzer’s IRAC camera was still operable with the same sensitivity as before. And so, the telescope started what was called the Spitzer Warm Mission. For another seven years, the telescope took its infrared pictures of the Universe, revealing it and making it seem closer.

Spitzer Space Telescope observed points that other telescopes couldn’t detect because of the dust and gas cloud in the universe. Due to Spitzer, scientists managed to observe the formation of planets and stars in the far corners of the universe, they learned about how stars die, how the universe forms, and how supermassive black holes consume everything around them.

It became one of NASA’s most significant sources of observation after the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Infrared observations can see objects hidden in visible light. For this reason, the Spitzer IRAC camera was able to see beyond the wavelengths of Hubble’s instruments. On January 29, Spitzer will take its last shot, blinking at the Universe.