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RE: Spitzer Space Telescope
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Spitzer Celebrates Fourth Anniversary with Celestial Fireworks
A newly expanded image of the Helix nebula lends a festive touch to the fourth anniversary of the launch of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. This spectacular object, a dying star unravelling into space, is a favourite of amateur and professional astronomers alike. Spitzer has mapped the expansive outer structure of the six-light-year-wide nebula, and probed the inner region around the central dead star to reveal what appears to be a planetary system that survived the star's chaotic death throes.

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Jim Houck and team celebrate fourth anniversary of Spitzer Space Telescope's 'dust-busting' the universe
The universe is full of dust, and it's not all on terrestrial bookshelves. In space, entire planetary systems (a billion miles wide), star clusters (a million billion miles wide) and even galaxies (a billion billion miles wide) are enshrouded in dust. That's a lot of dust, and a big problem for astronomers trying to see through it.
Complicating matters more, the dust itself is invisible, disguising dynamic celestial systems as dark, seemingly empty swaths of sky.

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Two extremely rare cosmic objects have recently been detected in a shallow survey conducted with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. One is a quasar (or supermassive black hole) located approximately 12.5 billion light-years away. It is so bright that it outshines its entire galaxy. The other is a cold, puny "failed star" called a T-type brown dwarf.

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Engineers and scientists working on the recovery team brought NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope out of safe mode and restored it to normal mode late Tues., August 29. The observatory's three science instruments were successfully tested, clearing the way for science observations to resume today, Thurs., August 31. This means Spitzer is back on nominal operations.

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In three terrific years, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has peered into the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, detected partial ingredients for DNA in other solar systems, and uncovered evidence that planets might rise from a dead star's ashes.

With almost 18,000 hours of completed observations, the four-meter tall observatory is also the current record holder for the longest-lived infrared mission ever launched into space, surpassing its predecessor the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory mission, which flew for three years from November 1995 until December 1998.

"Spitzer's scientific success far exceeds even my wildest pre-launch expectations" - Dr. Michael Werner, Spitzer Project Scientist.

This past April, NASA officially declared Spitzer a "successful mission" when it completed the last of its minimum mission requirements, which stated that the telescope must fly for at least two and a half years. However, like an overachiever, Werner expects Spitzer to conduct invaluable observations of the infrared universe through 2008 and beyond.

"We can look forward to almost three more years of discovery and exploration of the Infrared Universe with Spitzer's full capabilities, and several additional years at the shortest infrared wavelengths where the cryogenic cooling is not required" - Dr. Michael Werner.

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Engineers are studying data returned by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, to determine what caused the observatory to enter safe mode on Friday, Aug. 18 at 2:52 p.m. Pacific time. After an unexpected reboot of Spitzer's main onboard computer, the spacecraft autonomously followed pre-programmed procedures, switched to the backup electronics system, and entered safe mode.
The engineering and science teams have so far found no hardware or software problem to explain the unplanned reboot. In response to the safe mode entry, the Spitzer team has carefully manoeuvred the spacecraft, which is in an Earth-trailing orbit around the sun, to point its high-gain antenna toward Earth. This change in attitude enables engineers to receive critical engineering data as quickly as possible. The project's engineers are carefully analysing the data, trying to determine the next course of action to bring the spacecraft back to nominal operations.

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Before launch, astronomers and engineers working on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope developed a list of basic goals for the mission to accomplish. The list was referred to as Level 1 Mission Requirements, and Spitzer's "mission success" was to be measured on the telescope's ability to effectively accomplish every requirement.

On April 27, 2006, Spitzer officially satisfied the last open goal on the Level 1 Mission Requirement list, which required the telescope to obtain spectacular infrared images of the cosmos for at least two and a half years.

Later this month, on May 29, 2006, Spitzer will celebrate another milestone, it's 1000th day in space.

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While most spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, have two or more spiral arms, peculiar galaxy NGC 4725 has only one.

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In this false-colour Spitzer Space Telescope infrared image, the galaxy's solo spiral arm is seen in red, highlighting the emission from dust clouds warmed by newborn stars. The blue colour is light from NGC 4725's population of old stars. Also sporting a prominent ring and a central bar, this galaxy is over 100 thousand light-years across and lies 41 million light-years away in the well-groomed constellation Coma Berenices.
Computer simulations of the formation of single spiral arms suggest that they can be either leading or trailing arms with respect to a galaxy's overall rotation.



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Spitzer Space Telescope
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On August 25, 2003, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope launched in to space and history by providing the world with the deepest infrared observations ever taken.

Four days after its launch the telescope opened its infrared eyes for the first time and immediately performed beyond all expectations by providing the world with one of the deepest infrared images ever taken.


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In just two years, the observatory's infrared eyes have uncovered a hidden universe teeming with warm stellar embryos, chaotic planet-forming disks, and majestic galaxies, including the delightfully odd galaxy called NGC 4725 shown below.


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In this false-colour picture, the galaxy's arm is highlighted in red, while its centre and outlying halo are blue. Red represents warm dust clouds illuminated by newborn stars, while blue indicates older, cooler stellar populations. The red spokes seen projecting outward from the arm are clumps of stellar matter that may have been pushed together by instable magnetic fields.


This peculiar galaxy is thought to have only one spiral arm. Most spiral galaxies have two or more arms. Astronomers refer to NGC 4725 as a ringed barred spiral galaxy because a prominent ring of stars encircles a bar of stars at its centre (the bar is seen here as a horizontal ridge with faint red features). Our own Milky Way galaxy sports multiple arms and a proportionally smaller bar and ring.

NGC 4725 is located 41 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices.
This picture is composed of four images taken by Spitzer's infrared array camera at 3.6 (blue), 4.5 (green), 5.8 (red), and 8.0 (red) microns. The contribution from starlight (measured at 3.6 microns) has been subtracted from the 5.8- and 8-micron images to enhance the visibility of the dust features.

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