Campus & Community

Picturing a universe that’s out of sight

1 min read

Satellite sees through space clouds

Giovanni Fazio, a senior physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, directed the design and construction of a camera that is looking beyond the visible universe to see planets, stars, and galaxies being born. On Aug. 25, 2003, he waited for the ignition of a Delta rocket, with extra boosters strapped to it, to blast his life’s ambition into an orbit around the sun. The launch was successful, and since December 2003 the best-ever infrared images of the universe have started coming down from space. “They are so spectacular, they are worth the 20 years of heartbreaks,” Fazio says. “I feel like a kid in a toy store. It’s a science wonderland.” The space telescope has been officially named the Spitzer Space Telescope in honor of Lyman Spitzer Jr., an astronomer who first proposed launching telescopes into space to rise above the veiling effect of moisture and dust in Earth’s atmosphere. The telescope is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA facility in Pasadena, California.