Looking Sharp With Spitzer Space Telescope

Working deep in space, far from mother Earth's noise and influence, the Spitzer Telescope is providing us incredible images.
It operates at infrared wavelengths across a wide wavelength band.

No glassy or crystalline material can transmit across this entire band, so instead the Spitzer Telescope
uses mirrors, not lenses. The fact that the Spitzer Telescope operates at a very, very low temperature
(just a few degrees above absolute zero) places very special requirements on the temperature stability
and strength of the mirror material. So NASA fabricated Spitzer’s mirrors out of the rare element Beryllium, which has ideal thermal and mechanical properties.
One of Spitzer’s three focal plane instruments, the Infrared Array Camera, contains two pairs of lenses. These are made from exotic materials that assure they transmit the infrared wavelengths: one of the pairs consists of a Magnesium Fluoride - Zinc Sulfide doublet, while the other pair contains lenses made of Barium Fluoride and Zinc Selenide. These lenses are quite small [less than 2 inches in diameter], but the precision with which they were designed, fabricated, and aligned is one of the keys to the Spitzer’s scientific success.


Researched and written by
Whitney Clavin NASA/JPL-Caltech
Technicians at JPL work on the telescope.

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