first observations, of a glowing stellar nursery; a swirling,
dusty galaxy; a disc of planet-forming debris; and organic material
in the distant universe, demonstrate the power of the telescope's
infrared detectors to capture cosmic features never before seen.
Spitzer Space Telescope was also officially named today after
the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr. He was one of the 20th century's
most influential scientists, and in the mid-1940s, he first
proposed placing telescopes in space.
newest Great Observatory is open for business, and it is beginning
to take its place at the forefront of science," said NASA's
Associate Administrator for Space Science, Dr. Ed Weiler. "Like
Hubble, Compton and Chandra, the new Spitzer Space Telescope
will soon be making major discoveries, and, as these first images
show, should excite the public with views of the cosmos like
we've never had before."
Spitzer Space Telescope is working extremely well. The scientists
who are starting to use it deeply appreciate the ingenuity and
dedication of the thousands of people devoted to development
and operations of the mission," said Dr. Michael Werner,
project scientist for the Spitzer Space Telescope at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Aug. 25 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the Spitzer Space Telescope
is the fourth of NASA's Great Observatories, a program designed
to paint a more comprehensive picture of the cosmos using different
wavelengths of light.
the other Great Observatories have probed the universe with
visible light (Hubble Space Telescope), gamma rays (Compton
Gamma Ray Observatory) and X-rays (Chandra X-ray Observatory),
the Spitzer Space Telescope observes the cosmos in the infrared.
Spitzer's unprecedented sensitivity allows it to sense infrared
radiation, or heat, from the most distant, cold and dust-obscured
celestial objects. Today's initial images revealed the versatility
of the telescope and its three science instruments. The images:
Resembling a creature on the run with flames streaming behind
it, the Spitzer image of a dark globule in the emission nebula
IC 1396 is in spectacular contrast to the view seen in visible
light. Spitzer's infrared detectors unveiled the brilliant hidden
interior of this opaque cloud of gas and dust for the first
time, exposing never-before-seen young stars.
The dusty, star-studded arms of a nearby spiral galaxy, Messier
81, are illuminated in a Spitzer image. Red regions in the spiral
arms represent infrared emissions from dustier parts of the
galaxy where new stars are forming. The image shows the power
of Spitzer to explore regions invisible in optical light, and
to study star formation on a galactic scale.
Spitzer revealed, in its entirety, a massive disc of dusty debris
encircling the nearby star Fomalhaut. Such debris discs are
the leftover material from the building of a planetary system.
While other telescopes have imaged the outer Fomalhaut disc,
none was able to provide a full picture of the inner region.
Spitzer's ability to detect dust at various temperatures allows
it to fill in this missing gap, providing astronomers with insight
into the evolution of planetary systems.
Data from Spitzer of the young star HH 46-IR, and from a distant
galaxy 3.25 billion light-years away, show the presence of water
and small organic molecules not only in the here and now, but,
for the first time, far back in time when life on Earth first
manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Office
of Space Science, Washington. Science operations are conducted
at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena. Major partners are Lockheed Martin Corporation,
Sunnyvale, Calif.; Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation,
Boulder, Colo.; NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt,
Md.; Boeing North America (now DRS Technologies, Inc.) Anaheim,
Calif.; the University of Arizona, Tucson; and Raytheon Vision
Systems, Goleta, Calif. The instrument principal investigators
are Dr. Giovanni Fazio, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
Cambridge, Mass.; Dr. James Houck, Cornell University, Ithaca,
N.Y.; and Dr. George Rieke, University of Arizona, Tucson.
images are available at http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu and http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov.
Additional information about the Spitzer Space Telescope is
available at http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/.