A new window to the universe was opened with today’s
release of the first dazzling images from NASA’s newly named
Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Space Infrared
Telescope Facility.

The first observations, of a glowing stellar nursery; a
swirling, dusty galaxy; a disc of planet-forming debris; and
organic material in the distant universe, demonstrate the
power of the telescope’s infrared detectors to capture cosmic
features never before seen.

The Spitzer Space Telescope was also officially named today
after the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr. He was one of the 20th
century’s most influential scientists, and in the mid-1940s,
he first proposed placing telescopes in space.

“NASA’s newest Great Observatory is open for business, and it
is beginning to take its place at the forefront of science,”
said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Science, Dr. Ed
Weiler. “Like Hubble, Compton and Chandra, the new Spitzer
Space Telescope will soon be making major discoveries, and,
as these first images show, should excite the public with
views of the cosmos like we’ve never had before,” he said.

“The Spitzer Space Telescope is working extremely well. The
scientists who are starting to use it deeply appreciate the
ingenuity and dedication of the thousands of people devoted
to development and operations of the mission,” said Dr.
Michael Werner, project scientist for the Spitzer Space
Telescope at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,

Launched Aug. 25 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the Spitzer Space
Telescope is the fourth of NASA’s Great Observatories, a
program designed to paint a more comprehensive picture of the
cosmos using different wavelengths of light.

While the other Great Observatories have probed the universe
with visible light (Hubble Space Telescope), gamma rays
(Compton Gamma Ray Observatory) and X-rays (Chandra X-ray
Observatory), the Spitzer Space Telescope observes the cosmos
in the infrared. Spitzer’s unprecedented sensitivity allows
it to sense infrared radiation, or heat, from the most
distant, cold and dust-obscured celestial objects. Today’s
initial images revealed the versatility of the telescope, and
its three science instruments. The images:

— Resembling a creature on the run with flames streaming
behind it, the Spitzer image of a dark globule in the
emission nebula IC 1396 is in spectacular contrast to the
view seen in visible light. Spitzer’s infrared detectors
unveiled the brilliant hidden interior of this opaque cloud
of gas and dust for the first time, exposing never-before-
seen young stars.

— The dusty, star-studded arms of a nearby spiral galaxy
Messier 81 are illuminated in a Spitzer image. Red regions in
the spiral arms represent infrared emissions from dustier
parts of the galaxy where new stars are forming. The image
shows the power of Spitzer to explore regions invisible in
optical light, and to study star formation on a galactic

— Spitzer revealed, in its entirety, a massive disc of dusty
planet-forming debris encircling the nearby star Fomalhaut.
Such debris discs are the leftover material from the building
of a planetary system. While other telescopes have imaged the
outer Fomalhaut disc, none was able to provide a full picture
of the inner region. Spitzer’s ability to detect dust at
various temperatures allows it to fill in this missing gap,
providing astronomers with insight into the evolution of
planetary systems.

— Data from Spitzer of the young star HH 46-IR, and from a
distant galaxy 3.25 billion light-years away, show the
presence of water and small organic molecules not only in the
here and now, but, for the first time, far back in time when
life on Earth first emerged.

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. Major partners are Lockheed Martin
Corporation, Sunnyvale, Calif., Ball Aerospace and
Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colo., NASA’s Goddard
Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Boeing North America
(now DRS Technologies, Inc.) Anaheim, Calif., the University
of Arizona, Tucson, and Raytheon Vision Systems, Goleta,
Calif. The instrument principal investigators are Dr.
Giovanni Fazio, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
Cambridge, Mass.; Dr. James Houck, Cornell University,
Ithaca, N.Y.; and Dr. George Rieke, University of Arizona,

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