gould's belt survey
a spitzer legacy project

Public Intranet
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Megeath (University of Toledo)

Spitzer Space Telescope

The Spitzer Space Telescope observes light rays that our eyes cannot perceive. Over most of the history of astronomical research, the vast majority of astronomical observations have been done in the visual light band. What we see with our eyes is the "visual" world. The visual light band consists of ultraviolet, like black lights, to the deep colors of red -- essentially the colors we see in rainbows. Now, what do we see when a room is pitch black? Just darkness. We are blind in such a situation, but snakes in the pit viper family can easily see us. The pit vipers can sense our heat that our bodies radiate and they do this by perceiving us with their infrared sensors.

In a similar manner, there are many regions of space that appear completely devoid of emission in the visual band. When looking through an instrument that sees infrared light, these dark regions shine brightly. In their earliest stages of formation, young stars are enshrouded in gas and dust. Spitzer is very sensitive to the infrared emission from this dust, thus enabling us to detect and identify young stars that may be undetectable in visible light.

The Spitzer Space Telescope, which was launched on August 25th, 2003, is currently the most advanced infrared viewing instrument placed in space. Without constraints of earth-bound infrared telescopes, the Spitzer Space Telescope has been able to see deep into areas that appear completely devoid of any stellar activity. For example, in 2004 a Spitzer observation reported seeing a glowing point source in a molecular cloud, known as L1014, that appeared spartan to earth-based infrared telescopes. The object discovered may be the youngest brown dwarf ever observed.

Using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, forming stars in Gould's Belt will be thoroughly studied by a large team of astronomers and graduate students on our team, and by many others. If you're curious about seeing what the Spitzer Space Telescope looks like check out the following image.