It revealed wonders of our solar system, our galaxy and beyond, but 16 years after it was launched, Spitzer ends its exploratory journey. NASA revealed that since Thursday, the space observatory has been placed in safe mode, thereby ceasing all scientific operations.
Opened in 2003, the Spitzer fits what NASA considers one of the four major observatories, joining the group with the Hubble space telescope, and the Chandra X-Ray and Compton Gamma Ray observers.
According to the statement by the American space agency, Spitzer taught us about new aspects of the cosmos, allowing us to take another step on how the universe works, answering questions about our origins, and whether we are or not alone, he says Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at NASA.
In the gallery you can witness Spitzer's 15 biggest discoveries navigating space.
The space agency highlights Spitzer's contribution to the study of comets and asteroids within our solar system and found one of Saturn's rings, which had not yet been identified. He also studied the formation of stars, planets and the composition of interstellar dust, as well as the evolution of galaxies from the ancient universe to the present day. It has also proved to be an effective tool for the detection of exoplanets, especially in the identification of their atmospheres.
The Spitzer, which uses an infrared view to look at the universe, was to be discontinued in 2018, being replaced by the James Webb space telescope, more modern and with the same characteristics. But its postponement to 2021, guaranteed the old telescope more life.
Through its positioning above the Earth's atmosphere, Spitzer was able to detect waves impossible to obtain from Earth observation. And even though he was sick, working with just enough fuel to operate two of his three instruments, he continued his quest for knowledge for more than a decade. In 2016, together with Hubble, it captured the image of the most distant galaxy ever detected.
Spitzer's legacy will continue to live, as NASA has made its file available for public consultation. Scientists believe that researchers will still continue to make new discoveries with their data, long after it has ceased operations.