NASA Secrets- Black Holes, Exoplanets, Spitzer

Spitzer Space Telescope

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, designed to detect primarily heat or infrared radiation, launched in 2003. Spitzer’s highly sensitive instruments allow scientists to peer into cosmic regions that are hidden from optical telescopes, including dusty stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies, and newly forming planetary systems. Spitzer‘s infrared eyes also allow astronomers to see cooler objects in space, like failed stars (brown dwarfs), exoplanets, giant molecular clouds, and organic molecules that may hold the secret to life on other planets.


Black Holes

Although we can’t “see” black holes, scientists have been able to study them by observing how they interact with the environment around them with telescopes like Swift, Chandra, and Hubble. In 2017, NASA’s Swift telescope has mapped the death spiral of a star as it is consumed by a black hole. This year, astronomers using Chandra have discovered evidence for thousands of black holes located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy.



Just 30 years ago, scientists didn’t know if there were planets orbiting other stars besides our own Sun. Now, scientists believe every star likely has at least one exoplanet. They come in a wide variety of sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to small, rocky planets about as big as Earth or Mars. They can be hot enough to boil metal or locked in deep freeze. They can orbit their stars so tightly that a “year” lasts only a few days; they can even orbit two stars at once. Some exoplanets don’t orbit around a star, but wander through the galaxy in permanent darkness. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft and newly-launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite are helping us find more distant worlds.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *