Spitzer Expands Its Skills to Probe Exoplanets


(NASA) Now approaching its 10th anniversary, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has evolved into a premier observatory for work not envisioned in its original design: the study of worlds around other stars, called exoplanets.

While the engineers and scientists who built Spitzer did not have this goal in mind, their visionary work made this unexpected capability possible. Thanks to the extraordinary stability of its design and a series of subsequent engineering reworks, the space telescope now has observational powers far beyond its original limits and expectations.

“When Spitzer launched back in 2003, the idea that we would use it to study exoplanets was so crazy that no one considered it,” said Sean Carey of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “But now the exoplanet science work has become a cornerstone of what we do with the telescope.”

Above is an artist’s conception of Spitzer surrounded by exoplanets the telescope has examined.

For more on Spitzer and how engineers improved it, see the NASA press release.