NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe today announced NASA’s
Space Infrared Telescope Facility has been renamed the
Spitzer Space Telescope. It was named in honor of the late
Dr. Lyman Spitzer Jr., one of the 20th century’s most
distinguished scientists.

Spitzer’s pioneering efforts to put telescopes in space led
to two successful space missions, including the Hubble Space
Telescope. NASA also released the telescope’s first dazzling

“The Spitzer Space Telescope takes its place at the
forefront of astronomy in the 21st century, just as its
namesake, Dr. Lyman Spitzer Jr., was at the forefront of
astronomy in the 20th,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator
for Space Science Dr. Ed Weiler.

The telescope was launched August 25, 2003, from Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Spitzer Space
Telescope uses state-of-the-art infrared detectors to pierce
the dense clouds of gas and dust that enshroud many
celestial objects, including distant galaxies; clusters of
stars in formation; and planet forming discs surrounding
stars. It is the fourth of NASA’s Great Observatories, a
program that also includes the Hubble Space Telescope,
Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray

The new name was chosen after an international contest
sponsored by NASA. More than 7,000 names and supporting
essays were submitted, with more than a third coming from
outside the United States. Jay Stidolph, 28, a Canadian
resident of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, submitted the
winning entry.

Spitzer (1914-1997) was the first to propose, in 1946,
placing a large telescope in space to avoid the blurring
effects of Earth’s atmosphere. He then devoted the next 50
years of his career to making this vision a reality. His
efforts led to two successful NASA space telescopes: the
Copernicus satellite and the Hubble Space Telescope. He also
made significant contributions to the fields of stellar
dynamics, the interstellar medium and plasma physics.

Spitzer served on the faculty of Princeton University for 50
years. He received numerous awards, including the Catherine
Wolfe Bruce gold medal (1973); the National Academy of
Sciences’ Henry Draper Medal; the first James Clerk Maxwell
Prize for Plasma Physics by the American Physical Society
(1975); the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
(1978); the National Medal of Science (1979); and the
Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy (1985), the
equivalent of the Nobel Prize for fields excluded from those

In addition to being an outstanding scientist, Spitzer was
an exceptional teacher, well regarded by his colleagues and
students. He authored two popular reference books: Physics
of Fully Ionized Gases and Diffuse Matter in Space.

Considered to be a man of incredible discipline, diligence
and politeness, Spitzer also loved to mountain-climb and
ski. He was a member of the American Alpine Club. His wife,
Doreen Canaday Spitzer, four children and 10 grandchildren
survive him.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages
the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Office of
Space Science, Washington. Science operations are conducted
at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena.

For information about the Spitzer Space Telescope on the
Internet, visit