Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 September 5
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

SIRTF Streak
Credit & Copyright: Ben Cooper

Explanation: Streaking skyward, a Boeing Delta 2-Heavy rocket carries NASA's Space InfraRed Telescope Facility (SIRTF) aloft during the early morning hours of August 25th. The dramatic scene was recorded in a time exposure from the pier in Jetty Park at the northern end of Cocoa Beach, Florida, about 2.5 miles from the Cape Canaveral launch site. SIRTF (sounds like "sir tiff") will explore the distant Universe in infrared light as the fourth and final satellite observatory in NASA's Great Observatories Program. The three other large astrophysics satellites were designed for higher energies in the electromagnetic spectrum, with the Hubble Space Telescope operating near visible wavelengths, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory instruments sensitive to gamma rays, and the Chandra Observatory detecting cosmic x-rays. SIRTF has been launched into an Earth-trailing solar orbit to reduce its exposure to infrared radiation from our fair planet. Cooled by an on board supply of liquid helium, SIRTF's infrared detectors will operate at near absolute zero temperatures. Presently, SIRTF's systems are undergoing a 90-day check out.

Tomorrow's picture: light-weekend

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.