The best infrared eye in the universe† has closed, and scientists will need to wait at least a year before any similar instrument is at work again.
NASA turned off its Spitzer Space Telescope yesterday (Jan. 30), ending a 16-year mission. The agency at first stretched the observatory's tenure to overlap with that of the next great infrared space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope. But as that instrument continued to miss schedule targets, with a March 2021 launch currently targeted, NASA eventually concluded that a year's gap in infrared observations of the universe wouldn't harm science.
And so yesterday, NASA said farewell to the Spitzer and scientists said farewell to fresh data about the infrared cosmos.
In addition to being a telescope, it also a spacecraft with a trajectory, mass, power and possibly some propulsion.
Question: What is/was the actual schedule for the steps involved in Spitzer's end-of-life and what will be its final status? Will it be adrift without any communications?
†that we know of at least.
above: from Space.com's Farewell, Spitzer Space Telescope! NASA shuts down prolific observatory.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope's career had three phases, seen in this visualization. It was designed to stay cool, operating at temperatures as low as minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 267 degrees Celsius). In 2009, Spitzer ended its "cold mission" when it exhausted its supply of helium coolant, but it was able to avoid warming up too much, thanks to its increasing distance from Earth. Spitzer's "warm mission" has lasted for over a decade, nearly twice as long as the cold mission. (Image credit: NASA/Youtube)