NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the last of the space agency's Great Observatories satellites to launch, celebrated its fifth birthday recently... giving me the opportunity to post this amazing multigenerational picture of star-forming region in the constellation Cassiopeia, 6,500 light-years from Earth. The photo takes in an area equivalent to four full moons and puts on show how one generation of massive stars can give birth to the next.
The US$800 million telescope, which was named after the first man to propose putting telescopes in space, Dr. Lyman Spitzer Jr., launched on August 25 2003 from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Its mission will conclude when its onboard helium supply is exhausted—estimates from 2007 put that date at April 2009. So happy birthday, Spitzer Space Telescope! May you continue to provide us with awesome pictures for the last leg of your journey! [Cosmiclog]