NASA’s Space Infrared Telescope Facility has switched
on two of its onboard instruments and captured some
preliminary star-studded images. The space observatory was
launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on August 25.

The images were taken as part of an operational test of the
infrared array camera. It will take about a month to fully
focus and fine-tune the telescope and cool it to optimal
operating temperature, so these early images will not be as
sharp or polished as future pictures.

“We’re extremely pleased, because these first images have
exceeded our expectations,” said Dr. Michael Werner, the
Space Infrared Telescope Facility project scientist at
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. “We
can’t wait to see the images and spectra we’ll get once the
telescope is cooled down and instruments are working at full

The most striking image is available on the Internet at:

The telescope’s dust cover was ejected on Aug. 29, and its
aperture door opened on Aug. 30. The spacecraft is operating
in normal mode, and all systems are operating nominally.
The team is very pleased with the rapid progress of the
observatory and all of its onboard systems, said Project
Manager David Gallagher of JPL.

In addition to the infrared array camera, the multi-band
imaging photometer instrument was also switched on for the
first time in a successful engineering test. The
spacecraft’s pointing calibration and reference sensor
detected light from a star cluster. The third instrument,
the infrared spectrograph, will be turned on later this

These operations are part of the mission’s two-month in-
orbit checkout, which will be followed by a one-month
science verification phase. After that, the science mission
will begin a quest to study galaxies, stars and other
celestial objects, and to look for possible planetary
construction zones in dusty discs around other stars.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena, manages the Space Infrared Telescope Facility for
NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington.

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For more information about the Space Infrared Telescope
Facility, on the Internet, visit: