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"One of the main scientific goals of SIRTF, I think, is to develop a much better understanding of how stars and planets form."
SIRTF will be the final mission in NASA's Great Observatories Program--a family of four orbiting observatories, each observing the Universe in a different kind of light (visible, gamma rays, X-rays, and infrared).
One of Rieke's key themes is SIRTF's constant buffeting as the political winds changed direction within NASA.
SIRTF will measure the albedos and true diameters of several dozen KBOs.
As professional astronomers revel in the terabyte bounty of infrared data and make their target lists for using SIRTF and other studies, you can explore the full infrared sky from home.
Any celestial body with a temperature warmer than a few degrees Kelvin is a potential target for SIRTF. High on the telescope's checklist are not-quite-stellar brown dwarfs, dust-clogged infant planetary systems in star-forming regions, massive gas clouds containing wisps of sooty dust and organic molecules, and protogalaxies dating back nearly to the dawn of time.
While the book is currently up to date--it mentions Boomerang and MAXIMA (see the July issue, page 24)--it is likely that projects such as LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (October issue) and instruments such as Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) will change the face of cosmology several times in the coming decade.
So were several major projects currently nearing completion, such as the Space InfraRed Telescope Facility (SIRTF) and the Stratospheric Observatory for Far-Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).
(The Space InfraRed Telescope Facility, or SIRTF, Part Four in the Great Observatory story, won't be launched until 2001.) Compton provided NASA with an unprecedented chunk of the electromagnetic pie, covering a broader range in energy than any other observatory - six orders of magnitude, nearly a million times wider than the visible portion of the spectrum.
However, final confirmation may not come until the launch of the next generation of infrared space observatories, including NASA's SIRTF (Space Infrared Telescope Facility) and ESA's FIRST (Far Infrared Submillimetre Telescope).
Interesting candidates will be studied spectroscopically at some future date by the forthcoming Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF).
In a few years a much more powerful infrared space telescope, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), will give astronomers their first chance to operate an infrared observatory in the same object-by-object manner possible with the Hubble Space Telescope.
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