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NASA Launches Infrared Telescope into Orbit - 2003-08-25

The U.S. Space Agency NASA has launched a new super-sensitive infrared telescope that will enable scientists to better understand the evolution of the universe.

A Delta 2 rocket lifted off from the from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Monday and successfully delivered the large telescope, known as SIRTF (Space Infrared Telescope Facility), into orbit.

The launch originally had been scheduled for April, but was postponed several times due to technical problems.

NASA says the observatory (telescope) will trail behind Earth in its orbit around the sun to avoid interference from our planet's own infrared radiation.

Scientists say the new telescope's infrared radiation will allow it to detect light below the visible light spectrum, and take pictures of the oldest, darkest, coldest and most dust-obscured objects in the farthest corners of the universe.

The images picked up by the telescope will show the universe as it was billions of years ago.

The telescope is expected to deliver its first images back to Earth in October. NASA expects it to make some 100,000 observations during its estimated five-year life.

The SIRTF telescope joins the Hubble and Chandra telescopes in rounding out a trio of NASA observatories in orbit around Earth.

Chandra uses short wavelength x-rays above the visible light spectrum to detect the hottest objects in the universe, while Hubble detects medium-length light waves.

Scientists say the three telescopes will complement each other, giving them different views of the same celestial object to give scientists a broader understanding.