Spitzer Space Telescope and a New Way to See the Universe

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Observing the universe by using infrared goggles, that’s is basically what Spitzer does. Spitzer’s infrared sensors detect heat from objects that optical telescope and our eyes can’t see. Which the newest technology, this have given us the opportunity to look right through dense clouds of gas and dust to observe regions where stars are from, newly forming planetary system, the center of galaxies and objects like smaller stars and extra-solar planets which are to dim to see in visible light (California Science Center, 2018). Why put them in space? According to NASA, the Spritzer Space Telescope is the final mission in NASA’s Great Observatories Program which consist of four space-based observatories and each of their Universe had different type of light. This telescope is builds on a technical and solid scientific foundation established by two previous space infrared satellites which is The Cryogenic Telescope Assembly and The Spacecraft to identify infrared radiation and is comprised (NASA). This telescope was lunched in 2003 to investigate the universe in the infrared. The main objective of the Great Observatories is to perceive the universe in distinct wavelengths of light. Normally this telescope represents heat radiation from objects and also on the infrared band. Alternatively, observatories looked at visible light (Hubble, still operational), X-rays (the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, still operational), not to forget gamma-rays (Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, recently is no longer operational) (Howell, 2016).
Furthermore, Spitzer Space Telescope, or also known as an infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope consists of a cryogenically cooled telescope with slightly lightweight optics which convey light to advanced, and large-format infrared detector arrays (Watanabe, 2008). However, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope must be simultaneously warm and cold to deliver the function accordingly. The Cryogenic Telescope Assembly by be cooled to a few degrees above zero (-273 degrees Celsius, or -459 degrees Fahrenheit) to achieved the onboard tank of cryogen, or liquid helium. Concurrently, the electronic equipment in The Spacecraft portion must be operated close to room temperature (Greicius, 2017). After the consumption of the liquid coolant as a chilling instrument since August 2003, the Spitzer Telescope was first reinvented itself in May 2009 with warm mission. As the result from the” cold mission,” Spitzer’s Infrared Spectrograph and Multiband Imaging Photometer stopped working when two of the four cameras in IRAC persisted. Despite operating in warmer conditions, the spacecraft has made numerous discoveries (which at about 30 Kelvin or 405 Fahrenheit, is still consider cold by Earthly standards) (Greicius, 2017).

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List its achievements & major discoveries One of the most recent finding by Spitzer Telescope is the ‘Heartbeat’ which is an unusual pulsation in the outer shell of a star known as the HAT-P-2 causes vibrations each time it gets close to the star in its orbit. Julien de Wit mentioned that the discovery is just in time for Valentine’s Day because of a planet that seems to be causing a heartbeat-like behavior in its host star (NASA, 2017). However, the observation does not show any sign of orbit-to-orbit variability nor of orbital evolution of the eccentric planetary companion. The extensive coverage made by the Spitzer Telescope allows the researchers to get a better differentiate instrumental systematics from the transient heating of HAT-P-2 b’s micron photosphere and yields the detection of stellar pulsations with an amplitude of 40 ppm (Julien de Wit, 2017). The first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star was discovered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope where three of these planets are located in the habitable zone which is the area around the parent star where the rocky planet has liquid water (NASA, 2017). Moreover, a new record was set by the system where the greatest number of habitable zone planets was found outside the solar system. The system of planets is relatively close to us in the constellation Aquarius and it is approximately 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth because it is located outside the solar system and was widely known as exoplanets (Boardman, 2017). The exoplanet system is known as The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope or short for TRAPPIST-1. This is considered as a massive discovery as this is the first star system known to consists of rocky planets and such large number of Earth-sized (Ngan, 2017).In addition, visualization specialists form NASA’ Universe of Learning program and few other astronomers have combined visible and infrared vision of the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes to create an unprecedented, fly-trough view of the picturesque Orion Nebula, there dimensional, a nearby star-forming region (Jenkins, 2018). Even though, the Orion Nebula is located approximately 1,344 light-years away it can be seen by the unaided eye (Drake, 2018). Intense ultraviolet radiation from the Trapezium’s stars has ionized and heated the hydrogen and suffer gas resulted to the view of swirls of green visible-light and ultraviolet in the Hubble’s telescope. Simultaneously, the Spitzer telescope’s infrared view exposes carbon-rich molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the cloud. The organic molecules have been clarified by the Trapezium’s stars, and was shown in the composite as tread of orange and red. Jointly, these telescopes expose the stars in Orion as a rainbow of dots sprinkled throughout the snapshot. Yet, Hubble telescope showed less embedded foreground stars as blue spots and stars as specks of green (NASA, 2006). Infrared light made the object look cooler than those that glow in optical light. As a result, by providing an infrared vision of the nebula, Spitzer telescope makes it achievable to peer through heavy layers of dust to allow newly-forming stars as well as those low mass and that are faint (Kornfeld, 2018). Shown in the picture above both showcases the infrared and visible visualizations of the Orion Nebula. Source: NASA, 2018 Another major discovery found by the spritzer telescope was a large ring around Saturn. It was the farthest and largest distance band around this ringed world and from Earth it would look like one full moon on either side of Saturn by using the Spritzer Telescope (Atkinson, 2009). This new ring which follows the orbit of one of Saturn’s moon. Phoebe is different with any other rings which is closer to the planet, plus it is wider, thicker and tilted than the plane of other rings (Grayson, 2009).

Anne Verbiscer, the team leader of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville told in the meeting that the largest planetary ring in the solar system is what made it unique. Douglas Hamilton, one of the team member from the University of Maryland in College Park added that even though the ring is huge, it is quite diffusing which resulted to difficulty in identifying it using visible light (Courtland et al, 2009).The bulk of the ring starts about 6 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward to another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles) and the ring’s orbit was tilted 27 degrees from the planet’s main ring plane (CNN, 2009). According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif is made of dust particles and ice, and it is located on the far edges of the Saturnine system. Moreover, one of its moons, Iapetus, has a dark side which is widely known as Cassini Regio after the Italian scientist who become the first person to be spotted the moon in the year 1671. Phoebe being the Saturn’s farthest moon and the new ring both orbit in the opposite direction of Iapetus (Hazlett, 2009). The highlighted diagram shows a slice of Saturn’s largest ring by using the Spitzer Space Telescope. Source: NASA, 2009 How this changed our understanding of the universe?

The telescope has opened our eyes to see the universe in a totally different way. Previously many people believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, but the telescope had proven the fact state otherwise. Other than that, the telescope also shown us the mountains, crater on the moon, weather and geography on the planets in our solar system. These instruments had helped us to make the first ever valid calculation of the speed of light. Moreover, the telescope has also help us to understand other fundamental the physical laws of the world and its gravity as well as, it helps un to get a better understanding of the light that radiates from the stars and the sun (Watanabe, 2010).

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