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Spitzer Space Telescope a Cosmic Success!

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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope a Cosmic Success!

Written by Linda Vu, Spitzer Science Center
April 28, 2006

user posted image
This image of the Trifid Nebula combines
data from two of Spitzer's instruments.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J.Rho(SSC/Caltech)

Self-help books and grade school teachers have been promoting this tip for decades: To keep success in sight, make a list of goals.

Before launch, astronomers and engineers working on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope applied this tip to astronomy when they developed a list of basic goals for the mission to accomplish. The list was referred to as Level 1 Mission Requirements, and Spitzer's "mission success" was to be measured on the telescope's ability to effectively accomplish every requirement.

On April 27, 2006, Spitzer officially satisfied the last open goal on the Level 1 Mission Requirement list, which required the telescope to obtain spectacular infrared images of the cosmos for at least two and a half years.

"The Spitzer Space Telescope continues to shine as a crowning jewel in NASA's Great Observatory program. As we now enjoy the satisfaction of having successfully completed all of the Level 1 Requirements, our focus is lifted beyond the horizon in wonderment as to what additional new science will be realized as we move beyond the requirement to the completion of the mission," says Spitzer project manager, Robert Wilson.

Later this month, on May 29, 2006, Spitzer will celebrate another milestone, it's 1000th day in space. Thanks to an innovative group of engineers and astronomers, expectations are high that the telescope will continue to uniquely probe the infrared universe beyond its ultimate pre-launch goal of five years

Source: NASA/CalTech - Spitzer - Newsroom

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New Views of a Familiar Beauty

NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Rho (SSC/Caltech)

This image composite compares the well-known visible-light picture of the glowing Trifid Nebula (left panel) with infrared views from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (remaining three panels). The Trifid Nebula is a giant star-forming cloud of gas and dust located 5,400 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.

The false-color Spitzer images reveal a different side of the Trifid Nebula. Where dark lanes of dust are visible trisecting the nebula in the visible-light picture, bright regions of star-forming activity are seen in the Spitzer pictures. All together, Spitzer uncovered 30 massive embryonic stars and 120 smaller newborn stars throughout the Trifid Nebula, in both its dark lanes and luminous clouds. These stars are visible in all the Spitzer images, mainly as yellow or red spots. Embryonic stars are developing stars about to burst into existence. Ten of the 30 massive embryos discovered by Spitzer were found in four dark cores, or stellar "incubators," where stars are born. Astronomers using data from the Institute of Radioastronomy millimeter telescope in Spain had previously identified these cores but thought they were not quite ripe for stars. Spitzer's highly sensitive infrared eyes were able to penetrate all four cores to reveal rapidly growing embryos.

Astronomers can actually count the individual embryos tucked inside the cores by looking closely at the Spitzer image taken by its infrared array camera (top right). This instrument has the highest spatial resolution of Spitzer's imaging cameras. The Spitzer image from the multiband imaging photometer (bottom right), on the other hand, specializes in detecting cooler materials. Its view highlights the relatively cool core material falling onto the Trifid's growing embryos. The middle panel is a combination of Spitzer data from both of these instruments.

The embryos are thought to have been triggered by a massive "type O" star, which can be seen as a white spot at the center of the nebula in all four images. Type O stars are the most massive stars, ending their brief lives in explosive supernovas. The small newborn stars probably arose at the same time as the O star, and from the same original cloud of gas and dust.

The Spitzer infrared array camera image is a three-color composite of invisible light, showing emissions from wavelengths of 3.6 microns (blue), 4.5 microns (green), 5.8 and 8.0 microns (red). The Spitzer multiband imaging photometer image shows 24-micron emissions. The Spitzer mosaic image combines data from these pictures, showing light of 4.5 microns (blue), 8.0 microns (green) and 24 microns (red). The visible-light image is from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, Ariz.

Source: NASA/CalTech - Spitzer - Image Gallery Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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nice... I knew it would look awesome

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Master Sage

Sweet pics there! Another gleaming sucsess for planet earth. :tu:

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