Studying Planetary Nurseries
Stars and planets are born in dense, cold interstellar clouds of gas and dust. These regions of space are opaque to visible light, but infrared light reveals a wealth of details. The c2d program exploited that using the Spitzer telescope to observe inside the dark blobs known as molecular cores, where stars and planets form.
Spitzer’s original three instruments — Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), Infrared Spectrograph (IRS), and Imaging Photometer for Spitzer (MIPS) — made it uniquely able to observe star-forming regions in a wide range of infrared wavelengths. The c2d project used Spitzer to look at five of the nearest large molecular clouds for protostars, protoplanetary disks, and other signs of newborn stars. Astronomers identified nearly 100 molecular cores and protostellar objects, which are cataloged on the c2d website.
Today, only the IRAC instrument on Spitzer is still operational, but the c2d project paved the way to later observing campaigns, such as the CfA-led COordinated Molecular Probe Line Extinction Thermal Emission (COMPLETE) Survey of Star Forming Regions.