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The Scientific Bounty of The Spitzer Space Telescope

Michael W. Werner
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

The Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in August 2003, is the infrared member of NASA’s Great Observatory family. Spitzer combines the intrinsic sensitivity of a cryogenic telescope in space with the imaging and spectroscopic prowess of modern infrared detector arrays. This talk reviews the scientific results from Spitzer, which have produced major advances in our understanding of the Solar System, of phenomena within the Galaxy, and of the extragalactic universe. Spitzer has made the first detection of light from extra-solar planets, studied their composition and atmospheric structure, characterized planet-forming disks around solar type stars, shown that substellar objects with masses smaller than 10 Mjup form through the same processes as do solar mass stars, and studied in detail the composition of cometary ejecta in the Solar System. Spitzer has also discovered hundreds of new clusters of galaxies at cosmological distances and – working in tandem with the Hubble Space Telescope - identified surprisingly massive and mature galaxies, seen at an epoch when the Universe was less than 1Gyr old. Spitzer’s major technical and design advances have paved the way for yet more powerful future instruments. Spitzer’s initial supply of liquid helium coolant, which cooled the system to temperatures as low as 1.2K, was exhausted in May, 2009. The almost six years of data from the cryogenic mission are now publicly available through the Spitzer Heritage Archive. In addition, the thermal environment in Spitzer’s unique Earth-trailing solar orbit has allowed the telescope to equilibrate at a temperature below 30K, low enough that Spitzer’s two shortest wavelength arrays continue to operate with no loss in sensitivity.

2011 July 20, 13:30

Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto (Auditorium)
Rua das Estrelas, 4150-762 Porto

Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia