NASA turns off its Spitzer space telescope after 16 years of service

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NASA has said a final goodbye to its Spitzer space telescope, which has been decommissioned after more than 16 years of service.

NASA mission control downloaded the latest Spitzer data and sent it through a command to enter the safe mode on Thursday, stopping all scientific operations.

At 2:34 p.m. PST (10:24 p.m. GMT) on Thursday, Spitzer project manager Joseph Hunt said the spacecraft was officially out of service, ending his mission.

The telescope, which focused on capturing infrared images, was launched in 2003 and was operational for 16 and a half years, although it was only planned to serve for five.

The most memorable achievements of the spacecraft include the discovery of Saturn’s largest ring and four TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets, as well as mapping the extensive portraits of the Milky Way.

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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has concluded after more than 16 years of exploring the universe in infrared light

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has concluded after more than 16 years of exploring the universe in infrared light

Newborn stars peek out from under their natal mantle of dust in this dynamic image of the dark cloud Rho Ophiuchi from NASA's Spitzer in 2008

Newborn stars peek out from under their natal mantle of dust in this dynamic image of the dark cloud Rho Ophiuchi from NASA's Spitzer in 2008

Newborn stars peek out from under their natal mantle of dust in this dynamic image of the dark cloud Rho Ophiuchi from NASA’s Spitzer in 2008

“Spitzer has taught us completely new aspects of the cosmos and has taken many more steps to understand how the universe works, address questions about our origins and whether we are alone or not,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the NASA Scientific Mission . Address in Washington.

‘This Grand Observatory has also identified some important and new questions and tempting objects for further study, tracing a path for future research to follow.

“Its immense impact on science will certainly last well beyond the end of its mission.”

Among his contributions for 16 years, Spitzer studied comets and asteroids in our Solar System and found a previously unidentified ring around Saturn in 2009, the largest on the planet.

This image of Spitzer shows the cat's paw nebula, named for the large round features that create the impression of a feline footprint. The nebula is a star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy, located in the constellation Scorpius. This image was compiled using data from the Infrared Matrix Camera (IRAC) and the Multiband Image Photometer (MIPS) aboard the Spitzer

This image of Spitzer shows the cat's paw nebula, named for the large round features that create the impression of a feline footprint. The nebula is a star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy, located in the constellation Scorpius. This image was compiled using data from the Infrared Matrix Camera (IRAC) and the Multiband Image Photometer (MIPS) aboard the Spitzer

This image of Spitzer shows the cat’s paw nebula, named for the large round features that create the impression of a feline footprint. The nebula is a star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy, located in the constellation Scorpius. This image was compiled using data from the Infrared Matrix Camera (IRAC) and the Multiband Image Photometer (MIPS) aboard the Spitzer

This star-filled panorama of our galaxy, the Milky Way, is built from more than two million infrared snapshots taken over 10 years by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, processed in 2014

This star-filled panorama of our galaxy, the Milky Way, is built from more than two million infrared snapshots taken over 10 years by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, processed in 2014

This star-filled panorama of our galaxy, the Milky Way, is built from more than two million infrared snapshots taken over 10 years by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, processed in 2014

Spitzer reveals the stars of the busy galactic center region of our Milky Way. Spitzer's infrared cameras were able to penetrate much of the surrounding cloud and dust.

Spitzer reveals the stars of the busy galactic center region of our Milky Way. Spitzer's infrared cameras were able to penetrate much of the surrounding cloud and dust.

Spitzer reveals the stars of the busy galactic center region of our Milky Way. Spitzer’s infrared cameras were able to penetrate much of the surrounding cloud and dust.

In 2007, Spitzer also captured enough light from the planets outside our atmosphere, known as exoplanets, to identify molecules in its atmosphere.

Spitzer obtained data for two different gas exoplanets, called HD 209458b and HD 189733b, about 159 and 64.5 light years away from our Solar System, respectively.

The exoplanets, called ‘hot Jupiter’ are made of gas, but orbit much closer to their suns than the Jupiter in our own Solar System.

Last year, Spitzer data provided NASA scientists with information on conditions in a rocky exoplanet called LHS 3844b, 1.3 times the mass of the Earth and 48.6 light years from our planet.

The illustration of this artist represents the exoplanet LHS 3844b, which is 1.3 times the mass of the Earth and orbits a dwarf star M, smaller, dimmer and colder stars than stars like our Sun.

The illustration of this artist represents the exoplanet LHS 3844b, which is 1.3 times the mass of the Earth and orbits a dwarf star M, smaller, dimmer and colder stars than stars like our Sun.

The illustration of this artist represents the exoplanet LHS 3844b, which is 1.3 times the mass of the Earth and orbits a dwarf star M, smaller, dimmer and colder stars than stars like our Sun.

This infrared image of Spitzer shows the Helix nebula, a cosmic star often photographed by amateur astronomers for its bright colors and its mysterious resemblance to a giant eye.

This infrared image of Spitzer shows the Helix nebula, a cosmic star often photographed by amateur astronomers for its bright colors and its mysterious resemblance to a giant eye.

This infrared image of Spitzer shows the Helix nebula, a cosmic star often photographed by amateur astronomers for its bright colors and its mysterious resemblance to a giant eye.

Spitzer also captured images of spectacular images of star systems and dust clouds, including newborn stars ‘cradling’ the dark Rho Ophiuchi cloud and the cat’s paw nebula.

It also provided an extensive 360-degree mosaic of our galaxy, the Milky Way, compiling more than 2 million images collected over the course of 10 years.

But Spitzer’s best-known work, NASA said, may be detecting and determining the mass and densities of the seven Earth-sized planets that orbit the TRAPPIST-1 star in 2017.

Spitzer discovered the four exoplanets that orbit TRAPPIST-1 after the first three were discovered in 2015 using a pair of Belgian optical robotic telescopes.

Spitzer’s discovery made the planets in orbit around TRAPPIST-1 the largest number of rocky planets ever found in orbit around a single star.

Artist's impression of the various exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 star system. Earth may not be the best planet for life: some exoplanets that orbit around distant stars, including the seven rocky planets TRAPPIST-1 discovered by Spitzer, have the potential to host a more diverse and abundant variety of life.

Artist's impression of the various exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 star system. Earth may not be the best planet for life: some exoplanets that orbit around distant stars, including the seven rocky planets TRAPPIST-1 discovered by Spitzer, have the potential to host a more diverse and abundant variety of life.

Artist’s impression of the various exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 star system. Earth may not be the best planet for life: some exoplanets that orbit around distant stars, including the seven rocky planets TRAPPIST-1 discovered by Spitzer, have the potential to host a more diverse and abundant variety of life.

This artist's conception shows an almost invisible ring around Saturn, the largest of the many rings on the giant planet, discovered by Spitzer.

This artist's conception shows an almost invisible ring around Saturn, the largest of the many rings on the giant planet, discovered by Spitzer.

This artist’s conception shows an almost invisible ring around Saturn, the largest of the many rings on the giant planet, discovered by Spitzer.

In 2016, NASA had decided to close Spitzer in 2018 in anticipation of the launch of the incoming James Webb space telescope service of billions of dollars.

However, when the launch of James Webb was postponed once again, Spitzer received an extension of its operations until 2020.

THE FOUR LARGE TELESCOPE OBSERVATORIES

Hubble Space Telescope (1990-) observes visible and almost ultraviolet light.

Gamma ray observatory Compton (1991-2000) observed gamma rays and hard radiographs.

Chandra X-ray Observatory (1999-) observes soft radiographs.

Spitzer Space Telescope (2003-2020) observed the infrared spectrum.

“Everyone who has worked on this mission should be extremely proud today,” said Hunt.

‘There are literally hundreds of people who contributed directly to Spitzer’s success, and thousands who used their scientific capabilities to explore the universe.

“We leave behind a powerful scientific and technological legacy.”

Spitzer’s main mission came to an end in 2009, when the telescope exhausted the supply of the liquid helium refrigerant needed to operate two of its three instruments.

However, scientists were able to continue the mission using a third instrument, the IR Matrix Camera (IRAC), until 2020.

One of Spitzer’s final acts was to take a dazzling view of the Tarantula Nebula, the first target he was given to observe after its initial launch near the beginning of the century.

The high-resolution image of the star formation region, named for its spider gas filaments, is composed of data from various observations made by the telescope.

The Tarantula Nebula shows the full extent of Spitzer's capabilities, according to project scientist Michael Werner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The Tarantula Nebula shows the full extent of Spitzer's capabilities, according to project scientist Michael Werner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The Tarantula Nebula shows the full extent of Spitzer’s capabilities, according to project scientist Michael Werner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Joseph Hunt, Spitzer Project Manager, is in Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Thursday, stating that the spacecraft was dismantled and the Spitzer mission concluded

Joseph Hunt, Spitzer Project Manager, is in Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Thursday, stating that the spacecraft was dismantled and the Spitzer mission concluded

Joseph Hunt, Spitzer Project Manager, is in Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Thursday, stating that the spacecraft was dismantled and the Spitzer mission concluded

Scientists say they expect researchers to continue making discoveries with Spitzer long after the spacecraft’s dismantling.

Spitzer was one of NASA’s four Great Observatories: large and powerful space astronomical telescopes launched between 1990 and 2003.

The fabulous four – Spitzer, the Compton gamma ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope – were built to specifically observe regions of the light spectrum.

Satellite light readings can allow scientists to discern the mass and size of stars in other galaxies and their planets that pass in front of them.

The Great Observatories program demonstrated the power of using different wavelengths of light to create a more complete picture of the universe, NASA said.

Of the four, only Hubble and Chandra now remain active, as Compton was discharged in 2000.

All Spitzer data is free and available to the public at the Spitzer data file.

WHAT IS THE SPRITZER SPACE TELESCOPE?

The Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Installation of the Space Infrared Telescope, is an infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope.

It consists of a cryogenic space telescope cooled with a light optic that delivers light to large-format advanced infrared detector sets.

It is able to study objects that range from our solar system to the ends of the universe.

Looking back at the primitive universe, observe young galaxies and form stars.

The Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Installation of the Space Infrared Telescope, is an infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope (artist's impression). The band of light in this image is the bright dust of the Milky Way seen at 100 microns.

The Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Installation of the Space Infrared Telescope, is an infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope (artist's impression). The band of light in this image is the bright dust of the Milky Way seen at 100 microns.

The Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Installation of the Space Infrared Telescope, is an infrared cousin of the Hubble Space Telescope (artist’s impression). The band of light in this image is the bright dust of the Milky Way seen at 100 microns.

It is also used to detect dust discs around the stars, considered an important indicator of planetary formation.

The mission is the fourth and final observatory under NASA’s Great Observatories program.

This mission also includes the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

It was launched into orbit around the sun, behind the Earth, drifting in a benign thermal environment.

By using this orbit, the spacecraft can adopt an innovative “hot launch” architecture, in which only the instrument’s payload is cooled at launch.

By using special deep-space cooling, Spitzer can transport much less liquid helium than any previous infrared mission, which substantially reduces mission development costs.

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