The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility) is the fourth and final facility in the Great Observatories Program, joining Hubble Space Telescope (1990), the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (1991-2000), and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (1999). Spitzer, with a sensitivity that is almost three orders of magnitude greater than that of any previous ground-based and space-based infrared observatory, is expected to revolutionize our understanding of the creation of the universe, the formation and evolution of primitive galaxies, the origin of stars and planets, and the chemical evolution of the universe. This review presents a brief overview of the scientific objectives and history of infrared astronomy. We discuss Spitzer's expected role in infrared astronomy for the new millennium. We describe pertinent details of the design, construction, launch, in-orbit checkout, and operations of the observatory and summarize some science highlights from the first two and a half years of Spitzer operations. More information about Spitzer can be found at http://spitzer.caltech.edu/.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)