Night Vision—Spitzer Space Telescope
Read a National Geographic magazine article about the Spitzer Space Telescope and get information, facts, and more about infrared observatories.
There's a lot hiding in the universe's dark corners. Interstellar dust clouds and inky stretches of deep space can appear dull to ordinary telescopes. But to a car-size telescope 26 million miles (41.8 million kilometers) from Earth, they are alive with light—infrared light, or heat rays. Since its launch in August 2003, says Robert Kennicutt, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope "has opened up half the universe to us."
In the process, it has exposed cosmic birthplaces. Stars take shape in clouds of gas and dust, and planets emerge in disks of debris around new stars. Early galaxies are also swathed in dust. Little visible light gets out, but these objects still emit heat—and infrared. "If