NASA names major telescope after late Princeton astronomer

NASA has named a major new space telescope, one of three companions to the Hubble Space Telescope, after a Princeton scientist who first advocated placing observatories above the Earth's atmosphere.

The Space Infrared Telescope Facility, which NASA had referred to as SIRTF, has now been named the Spitzer Space Telescope after the late astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer, who served on the Princeton faculty for nearly 50 years and died in 1997.

"Lyman Spitzer was the father of space telescopes," said Neta Bahcall, a Princeton professor of astrophysics who worked closely with Spitzer for many years. Spitzer proposed the idea of launching a telescope into space in 1946, long before the technical capacity existed, and worked for decades to convince political and scientific doubters of its worth.

"It is very appropriate that this massive undertaking, which has been so successful and so revolutionary for our understanding of the universe, is commemorated with the name of Lyman Spitzer," said Scott Tremaine, chair of astrophysical sciences at Princeton.

More details are available in a news release.

Contact: Eric Quinones (609) 258-3601