Greatest Discoveries of Spitzer Space Telescope

Greatest Discoveries of Spitzer Space Telescope

Credit: SciTechDaily

Spitzer has been amazing us for 15 years now through its marvelous discoveries.

Spitzer Space Telescope was launched on 25th August 2003 by NASA. The primary mission of this telescope was 2.5 years long and it was scheduled for that but it outlasted all the estimates of its lifetime and is still hovering in space. Recently, the 15th anniversary of this amazing telescope was celebrated which gives us an opportunity to look back at some of its outstanding findings.

The First-ever Exoplanet Weather Map

The ability of Spitzer to detect Infrared light had an important role in most of its achievements over the years. Despite the fact that it was never designed to study exoplanets, it made extraordinary revelations about them. In 2009, scientists used the data from Spitzer to produce the weather map of a gigantic, gaseous exoplanet called HD 189733b. This weather map showed temperature variations and the impact of roaring winds on the planet’s surface.

Saturn’s Largest Known Ring

Spitzer made the most exciting addition into the amazing ring system of Saturn by detecting the largest ring around the planet. This ring starts at about 6 million kilometers from the planet and is 170 times wider than the diameter of Saturn. Phoebe, a moon of Saturn, orbits within this ring and according to scientists, it is the source of all the material that makes up the ring. The scarcity of particles inside this ring kept it hidden for so long but Spitzer found this glow of cool dust having a temperature of -193o C.

Rocky Collision in Distant Solar Systems

Spitzer found quite a lot of rocky collisions in distant solar systems but one of them holds a special significance. Scientists were already keeping an eye on a system when the telescope detected a dusty eruption which could have occurred due to a collision between two massive asteroids. This finding holds immense importance because this was the first event when researchers had collected data about a system both before and after the collision.

The Most Distant Supermassive Black Holes

Spitzer provided information about the history of galaxy formation in the universe by detecting two of the most distant galactic black holes. These black holes are generally surrounded by the disks of gas and dust which offer sustainability to them. The disks and the black holes are collectively known as ‘Quasars’. Spitzer detected that light from two of these quasars traveled for almost 13 billion years to reach our planet.

Map of the Milky Way

More than 2 billion images from the Spitzer Space Telescope were collected to generate the most exclusive map of our galaxy. The data from this map came primarily from the Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire 360 (GLIMPSE 360). The fact that the dust blocks visible light makes it difficult to study certain parts of the Milky Way. The penetrating ability of the Infrared allowed the researchers to study the hidden sections which led to this exemplary creation.

Buckyballs of Carbon

Spitzer found Buckyballs (for the first time in space) around Tc 1, a Planetary Nebula. The term ‘Buckyballs’ refers to spherical Carbon molecules that have a Hexagon-Pentagon pattern and they belong to a class of molecules called Fullerenes. Scientists believe that the star at the center of Tc 1 was similar to our Sun but it shrunk to a dense White Dwarf star with time and these Buckyballs were formed in layers of Carbon that were blown off the star.

Detecting Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs)

Spitzer has been extremely effective not only for far-off ventures but also for studying small, nearby objects. It helps the scientists at NASA to identify the Near-Earth Asteroids and study them in order to make sure that none of them are moving towards the Earth. It detects Infrared radiations directly from the asteroid which allows it to determine its exact size.

Ingredients of the Soup which led to Different Heavenly Bodies

The Deep Impact Spacecraft was intentionally crashed into the Tempel 1, a comet, on 4th July 2005. It was done in order to analyze the material it expelled and this primordial soup of our solar system made some fascinating revelations. In addition to sand and other silicates, the researchers found surprising ingredients like Carbonates, Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Clay, and Iron-bearing Compounds. This was an important discovery as it helped the scientists to understand the formation of our solar system.

7 Earth-sized Planets around TRAPPIST-1

This discovery can be regarded as the biggest boost for finding life beyond our solar system. Scientists used Spitzer to observe TRAPPIST-1 for 500 hours before concluding that as much as 7 Earth-sized planets are revolving around it. The Infrared detection abilities of the telescope proved quite handy as this star is much cooler than our sun. The information about the size and mass of these planets may help researchers to determine their composition.

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