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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is retiring after 16 years of incredible infrared imaging. It revealed nebulas and galaxies as we'd never seen before.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of NASA's most powerful space telescopes, the Spitzer Space Telescope, is retiring at the end of this month after 16 years.



Spitzer measures infrared light, which allows it to see through clouds of gas and dust in space.



The telescope has generated some of the most awe-inspiring images that we have of nebulas and galaxies, and led to many groundbreaking discoveries.



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One of NASA's most powerful space telescopes is retiring at the end of this month, after an illustrious 16-year career. The Spitzer Space Telescope launched nearly 16 years ago with a profound mission: "to provide a unique, infrared view of the universe and allow us to peer into regions of space that are hidden from optical telescopes." The telescope was designed to detect infrared light, which enables it to see through large, dense clouds of gas and dust. Inside those clouds, new stars and planetary systems form, galaxies and stars collide, and black holes emerge. Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have been recording and interpreting data Spitzer has sent back for years. That work led to discoveries of habitable exoplanets, revealed rings around Saturn, and raised many new questions about the cosmos. Reflecting on the impact of the project, Suzy Dodd, a former Spitzer project manager, told reporters on Wednesday: "We're lifting the cosmic veil of the universe. There's a cornucopia of what we can observe." But as the telescope has floated in space, its systems have aged and battery life has diminished. That has made it hard for engineers and astronomers to communicate with Spitzer, which is why NASA is switching off the telescope. Spitzer's last official day collecting data will be January 30. Take a look at the remarkable images Spitzer captured over the years as it gave us a better understanding of the universe.
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