NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has studied the universe in infrared light since its launch in 2003, and at the end of this month its mission will come to an end — leading NASA and astronomers worldwide to reflect on the telescope’s legacy.
Cornell University played a critical role in the mission, leading the development of the telescope’s infrared spectrograph. Nikole Lewis, assistant professor of astronomy and deputy director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute, is a member of the Spitzer oversight committee. She says Spitzer has laid the groundwork for future exoplanet exploration.
“For many of us in the astronomy community, saying goodbye to Spitzer is saying goodbye to a dear friend that journeyed with us through the cosmos. Spitzer has spawned an entire generation of scientists, now eagerly waiting the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope to continue exploring the infrared universe.
“Although exoplanet science was not originally envisioned as a science case for Spitzer, ingenious use of the telescope captured some of the first drops of light from these distant worlds, allowing for the detailed exploration of hundreds of planetary systems beyond our own. Spitzer has laid the foundation for exoplanet exploration for the coming decade and beyond.”
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