Our solar system resides about 2/3 the way out from the center of a large flattened spiral galaxy. From this vantage point, we view the Galaxy as a narrow strip that extends across the sky. This strip appears as the “Milky Way” on a dark moonless night away from city lights.
When we first proposed to survey the inner 10-65 degrees of the Galactic plane with the Spitzer Space Telescope, we never dreamed it would be so successful and would grow into several GLIMPSE surveys spanning the entire 360 degrees of the Galactic plane. The Spitzer Space Telescope is an infrared observatory with a leap in sensitivity and spatial resolution that allows us to see stars and star forming regions to the edge of the Galaxy for the first time.
The acronym for GLIMPSE has meaning in that we originally went for the shortest exposures possible to allow for the largest mapping area in a reasonable time on the telescope, that is, to “glimpse” the Galactic plane. We use the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) with a wavelength range of 3.6 – 8 microns. (currently 3.6 – 4.5 microns in the “warm mission” phase of the observatory).
Our most recently awarded survey will return toward the center of the Galaxy and map above and below our original survey with deeper exposures in order to map the far outer Galaxy as it warps up and below the midplane. This survey is aptly named “Deep GLIMPSE”.
The various GLIMPSE surveys (GLIMPSE, GLIMPSE II, GLIMPSE3D, GLIMPSE360, and Deep GLIMPSE) have to date mapped an area of 960 square degrees, producing beautiful panoramic images of the Galactic plane and catalogs of over 160 million sources. Our team has worked diligently, especially researchers Marilyn Meade and Brian Babler, to produce high quality images and catalogs. These data products are publicly available at the Spitzer Science Center and IRSA. The Principle Investigators of the various GLIMPSE projects are Ed Churchwell, Robert Benjamin, and Barbara Whitney.
For more detailed information see the GLIMPSE webpages.
Our team has also processed the Spitzer IRAC data (catalogs and images) for the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. See this page for descriptions of those projects.