THE FORMATION OF THE MOON: The Earth's moon formed just 30 to 50 million years after the sun was formed, when an object the size of Mars collided with Earth, releasing a giant cloud of dust along with the moon. Using a spectrograph on the Spitzer Space Telescope researchers identified the chemical make up of the dust and debris particles left floating in space. These chemicals provided evidence that high-speed collisions -- the same type of collision that most likely created our moon – occurred in space.
ABOUT THE SPITZER TELESCOPE: The Spitzer Space Telescope was launched on August 25, 2003. Spitzer detects the infrared energy radiated by objects in space. Most of this infrared radiation is blocked by the Earth's atmosphere and cannot be observed from the ground. Spitzer allows us to peer into regions of space that are hidden from optical telescopes. Many areas of space are filled with vast, dense clouds of gas and dust that block our view. Infrared light however can penetrate these clouds, allowing us to peer into regions of star formation, the centers of galaxies, and into newly forming planetary systems. Infrared also brings us information about the cooler objects in space, such as smaller stars which are too dim to be detected by their visible light, extrasolar planets, and giant molecular clouds.