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The IRS Spectrograph during Spitzer Space Telescope Assembly

The IRS Spectrograph during Spitzer Space Telescope Assembly


The Spitzer Space Telescope is a space-based telescope which views the universe with detectors sensitive to the radiation emitted by warm objects. It carries three astronomical measuring instruments. Two are cameras which image the brightness and location of an object. The remaining instrument is the Infrared Spectrograph, or IRS, which records the fingerprint of colors in radiation emitted from an object and collected by the Spitzer telescope.

These pages describe the IRS instrument. Led by Cornell University astronomer James R. Houck, whose involvement and advocacy for Spitzer stretches more than two decades, this instrument was designed and built by a team of astronomers and engineers from Cornell University, Ball Aerospace, and the NASA Ames Center. During Spitzer's five year mission, the IRS will provide unparalleled new understanding of a variety of phenomena and undoubtedly pose even more questions through new discoveries. Initially, the IRS Science Team has outlined a program which will address astronomical knowledge including the following areas:

  • the early history of how most stars were formed in the universe,
  • detailed information about how stars and planets form now in our own Milky Way galaxy,
  • the number and behavior of "brown dwarfs" - objects too heavy to be planets, but not heavy enough to have ignited the nuclear reactions that power a star,
  • the behavior of active galaxies, which, powered by massive black holes in their centers, are among the brightest objects in the universe,
  • how heavy elements were formed in the early universe that made possible solid planets, life, and eventually ourselves.

You can navigate through a series of pages explaining what the IRS instrument does, how it was designed and built, and meet some of the people behind it by visiting the following pages. An index is provided at left - or you may just continue to hit the NEXT link at the bottom of each page.

NEXT (on to What is Spectroscopy?)

-- DonBarry - 28 Sep 2004

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