Like a philanthropist donating a prized collection to a museum, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has opened a virtual vault rich with scientific data. The Spitzer Science Archive now provides astronomers access to the infrared telescope's data well before the mission's one-year anniversary in space.
The Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility) was launched on August 25, 2003. Its high-tech infrared eyes observe galaxies, infant stars and newly forming planetary systems that have escaped the view of other observatories.
"We are opening Spitzer's floodgates to the world," said Dr. Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, deputy manager of the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "Any astronomer with Internet access has this information at his or her fingertips." The Spitzer Science Center is responsible for validating and processing the scientific data into a standard form that astronomers all over the world can use to further their studies.
"People can do scientific research by comparing observations made at different wavelengths using data from just the archives," said Spitzer Project Scientist Dr. Michael Werner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The Spitzer archive will produce scientific surprises for decades long past the observatory's lifetime."
The archive includes data from the 110-hour "first-look" survey of the mid-infrared sky, and information from the Spitzer Legacy Science Program -- a half dozen scientific investigations that can be used as the basis for future research.
Spitzer is the fourth and final of NASA's Great Observatories; the others are the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. Spitzer views space in the infrared, Hubble in the ultraviolet and optical, Chandra in the x-ray bands of light, and Compton in gamma rays.
JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center. JPL is a division of Caltech.
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