Highlights from the Spitzer Space Telescope

Astronomer Michael Bicay, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center, will discuss Lifting the Cosmic Veil: A Decade of Highlights from the Spitzer Space Telescope, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, April 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.
Admission is free and the public is invited.

The Universe is continually radiating information to Earth, sending signals in wide-spectrum of light. However, not all of these messages reach the ground. Because our planet’s atmosphere blocks most radiation coming in from space.

The Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003 to study the cool universe with waves that are invisible to the human eye. It was designed to probe the birth and youth of stars and planetary disks, and to observe some of the most distant objects in the universe.

However, Spitzer’s mission has since changed—the study of planets orbiting other stars. Dr. Bicay will describe the long road leading to Spitzer’s launch, and present highlights from the mission’s remarkable first decade of discovery.

The planned mission period was to be 2 and a half years with a pre-launch expectation that the mission could extend to five or slightly more years until the onboard liquid helium supply was exhausted in 2009. Without liquid helium to cool the telescope to the very low temperatures needed to operate, most of the instruments are no longer usable. However, the two shortest-wavelength modules of the Infrared Array Camera are still operable with the same sensitivity as before the cryogen was exhausted, and will continue to be used in the Spitzer Warm Mission.

Spitzer has been put to work studying exoplanets (planets outside the Solar System) by modifying its hardware. This included doubling its stability by modifying its heating cycle, finding a new use for the camera, and analyzing the sensor at a sub-pixel level. In its “warm” mission, the spacecraft’s passive cooling system keeps the sensors at minus 407 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dr. Bicay is the director of science at the NASA Ames Research Center, leading more than 400 scientists and technical staff conducting research in space, earth and biological science. He holds a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford University and his research interests include the properties and contents of galaxies and galaxy clusters, as well as the large-scale structure in the universe.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos, California 94022

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
7:00 pm

Admission: Free

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3.00 from dispensers in student parking lots. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change.

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