Feb 6, 2020

Farewell Spitzer! Thank you for the Citizen Science!

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope ended its mission last week, wrapping up more than 16 years of making discoveries about our Universe. The very last scientific observation Spitzer made will help us better understand the distribution of dust in our solar system But the second-to-last scientific observation made by this great observatory was a brown dwarf discovered by citizen scientists at the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project.

Artist rendition of Spitzer in space
The second-to-last science observation from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was a brown dwarf discovered by citizen scientists at  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 A “brown dwarf” is a ball of gas without enough mass to be called a star; some brown dwarfs are essentially free-floating planets. The new Spitzer data on this brown dwarf will be used to measure how far away it is from Earth, which also tells us how intrinsically bright it is so we can compare it to models of how brown dwarfs form and evolve. This rare nearby “late T” brown dwarf was discovered by citizen scientists Frank Kiwy from Luxembourg and Melina Thevenot, from Germany. You can join the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project at