The Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, or SIRTF) uses infrared technology to explore the universe
The Spitzer Space Telescope contains three focal plane instruments, one of which is the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC). IRAC is a four-channel camera that provides simultaneous 5.2 x 5.2 arcmin images at 3.6, 4.5, 5.8, and 8 microns (the black instrument in the lower right part of the above image; see the optical housing model and the conceptual layout diagram. The pixel size is 1.22 arcsec in all bands. Two adjacent fields of view in the focal plane are viewed by the four channels in pairs (3.6 and 5.8 microns; 4.5 and 8.0 microns). All four detector arrays in the camera are 256 x 256 pixels in size, with the two short wavelength channels using InSb and the two longer wavelength channels using Si:As IBC detectors. The IRAC point-source sensitivity requirements (5 sigma, 200 sec) at 3.6, 4.5, 5.8, and 8.0 microns are 6, 7, 36, and 54 microJanskys, respectively.
The IRAC instrument addresses the four major scientific objectives defining the Spitzer mission. These objectives are (1) to study the early universe, (2) to search for and study brown dwarfs and superplanets, (3) to study ultraluminous galaxies and active galactic nuclei, and (4) to discover and study protoplanetary and planetary debris disks. In addition, IRAC is a general-purpose camera that has been used by observers for a wide variety of astronomical research programs.
2003 August 25: Spitzer Space Telescope Launched
The Spitzer Space Telescope was successfully launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:35:39 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time August 25, 2003, aboard a Delta II launch vehicle. See the Spitzer Science Center site for the latest status information and press releases.
2009: The Spitzer Warm Mission/ Beyond Mission
On May 15, 2009, the last of Spitzer’s cryogen was depleted. Over the course of the next couple months as the telescope and instrument chamber warmed, the IRAC team determined the operating temperature and biases for the warm mission, and recommissioned the instrument at the new set point. The 3.6 and 4.5 micron channels are operating at nearly the same sensitivity as in the cryogenic mission, and several enhancements to the spacecraft operation and IRAC observing modes have been made to improve its performance for various types of observations, including exoplanets. For details on the warm mission, see the NASA web site and the Spitzer Active Mission page. See also the description of the Beyond Mission.
2020: The End of the Spitzer Mission
On Day 6000 of the Spitzer mission, IRAC was powered down at 2020 Jan 29 20:40:20 UTC. After the remaining science data was transmitted and other spacecraft tasks completed, Spitzer was commanded into Safe Mode at 2020 Jan 30 at 22:30 UTC, ending the mission.
The full public database of Spitzer observations will continued to be hosted on the Spitzer Heritage Archive at IPAC.
Spitzer’s orbit will bring the observatory back to encounter the Earth again in 2051.
The Spitzer Space Telescope was operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA.
The IRAC Team
The development of the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) was a joint project of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), Ames Research Center (ARC), Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), the University of Arizona (UA), and the University of Rochester (UR). The Principal Investigator for IRAC is Dr. Giovanni G. Fazio, Senior Physicist, in the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. Joseph Hora is the IRAC Project Scientist at SAO. The Program Manager at SAO was Richard S. Taylor. The instrument was designed and built at Goddard Space Flight Center (Instrument Manager Lois G. Workman).
IRAC Team List – check here for email and web pages of the past and present members of the IRAC Team.