Spitzer’s Solar System studies of comets, centaurs and Kuiper belt objects

Carey Lisse, James Bauer, Dale Cruikshank, Josh Emery, Yanga Fernández, Estela Fernández-Valenzuela, Michael Kelley, Adam McKay, William Reach, Yvonne Pendleton, Noemi Pinilla-Alonso, John Stansberry, Mark Sykes, David E. Trilling, Diane Wooden, David Harker, Robert Gehrz, Charles Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In its 16 years of scientific measurements, the Spitzer Space Telescope performed ground-breaking and key infrared measurements of Solar System objects near and far. Targets ranged from the smallest planetesimals to the giant planets; Spitzer helped us to reshape our understanding of these objects while also laying the groundwork for future infrared space-based observations like those to be undertaken by the James Webb Space Telescope in the 2020s. In this Review Article, we describe how Spitzer advanced our knowledge of Solar System formation and evolution through observations of small outer Solar System planetesimals—that is, comets, centaurs and Kuiper belt objects (KBOs). Relics from the early formation era of our Solar System, these objects hold important information about the processes that created them.We group Spitzer’s key contributions into three broad classes: characterization of new Solar System objects (comets D/ISON 2012 S1, C/2016 R2 and 1I/‘Oumuamua); large population surveys of known objects (comets, centaurs and KBOs); and compositional studies through spectral measurements of body surfaces and emitted materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)930-939
Number of pages10
JournalNature Astronomy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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