Artist conception of Spitzer Space Telescope
NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC)

Spitzer Space Telescope

The Spitzer Space Telescope is NASA's infrared observatory, the final component in NASA's collection of "Great Observatories." It trails Earth in orbit around the sun to send back detailed information about space.

Spitzer imagery collected over its first 12 years of operation
NASA/JPL-Caltech

This collection shows a spectacular image for every year Spitzer has been in operation so far. Spitzer is still out there, gathering amazing information about the universe.

Imagine observing the universe through infrared goggles. That's basically what Spitzer does. Spitzer’s infrared sensors detect heat from objects that our eyes (and optical telescopes) can’t see. This lets us look right through dense clouds of gas and dust to see regions where stars form, the centers of galaxies, newly forming planetary systems and objects like smaller stars and extra-solar planets that are too dim to see in visible light. 

The Earth's atmosphere absorbs most incoming infrared radiation. So to look at the infrared light from distant stars and galaxies, Spitzer trails the Earth as it orbits the Sun. Spitzer is one of NASA’s four space-based Great Observatories. Each one examines the sky in a different wavelength: X-ray, gamma-ray, infrared or visible light. 

The Science Center's Spitzer Space Telescope

The Spitzer telescope on display in the gallery is a 1/5th-scale model provided by the Image Processing and Analysis Center at JPL-Caltech.