ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — The Spitzer telescope changed the way we see the universe. After 17 years of service, the telescope will be retired. The feeling is bittersweet as a new telescope will take its place. 

The replacement is the James Webb Telescope. One that will do similar tasks, but at a much higher resolution. Some professors and students at RIT that worked for years with the Spitzer telescope are preparing for the replacement. 

Launched in 2003 and only expected to last three years, the Spitzer telescope made it to 2020 and gave us the ability to see infrared light. Something that expanded our view, according to RIT astrophysicist and assistant professor Jeyhan Kartaltepe. 

“Typical telescopes like Hubble look in the optical part of the spectrum,” said Kartaltepe, “That light can get absorbed by dust that’s in the way obscuring objects like stars and distant galaxies.” 

Infrared images can see through the dust. Distant galaxies, other Earth-like planets, and how these evolve can all be studied. Kartaltepe spent her life studying the data and her Ph.D. thesis was on the evolution of galaxies using information from the Spitzer telescope. 

“It’s been such an important telescope for so many of us, and it’s leaving a vacancy for our abilities to discover the universe,” said Kartaltepe. 

In comes the James Webb Telescope. It is more sensitive, brings a finer resolution, and will have just as many capabilities at the Spitzer and then some. Now it is time to figure out how to use it and that starts with paperwork. 

The proposal being submitted by RIT could study how our galaxy is like other galaxies that are billions of light-years away. Ph.D. student Caitlin Rose uses simulations to mimic what galaxies will look like with the new telescope. “I’m basically trying to figure out what we’re expecting to see when James Webb actually launches,” said Rose. “Understanding how galaxies in general evolve helps us understand how our own galaxy evolved, and where we came from.” 

Spitzer telescope will be retired on January 30, 2020 and the launch of the James Webb telescope is scheduled for March 2021.