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The SWIRE Legacy Survey

SWIRE is the Spitzer Wide-area InfraRed Extragalactic Legacy Survey. SWIRE is the largest of six Legacy Surveys being carried out for the benefit of the astronomical community by teams selected by the Spitzer Science Center. SWIRE has imaged 49 square degrees of the sky (equavalent to the area covered by about 250 full moons), covering six different regions which have been carefully selected to be the best possible infrared fields for detecting faint infrared galaxies and quasars. SWIRE has taken over a month of the precious observing time on the Spitzer Space Telescope to obtain detailed images in all 7 infrared colors available to Spitzer.

Spitzer Space Telescope in earth-trailing orbit (artist's impression). Spitzer orbits the sun, gradually trailing behind the earth in order to obtain the best possible conditions for deep infrared observations.

Where SWIRE Looked

SWIRE Survey Fields Superimposed on a near-infrared (2-Micron All-Sky Survey) Image
SWIRE's six survey fields were selected to be away from the direction of our Milky Way's disk of stars and as free as possible from interplanetary or interstellar gas and dust. One of these fields called the Lockman Hole near the star Kochab in the cup of the Big Dipper has been known for some time to be a pristine field for extragalactic observations. Three of our fields were surveyed by the European ISO satellite's "Extragalactic Large Area Infrared Survey". Two are important because they contain deep surveys with the US Chandra X-Ray satellite and the European XMM satellite.

For more detailed public information about the individual SWIRE Survey Fields, click on the icon to the left, or you can visit our Astronomers' Survey Program Website.

SWIRE's Data Legacy

Although all the infrared images have now been taken, analysis of the more than 100,000 images will continue until late 2006. These images and the catalogs that are being created from them are expected to point to over a million previously unknown infrared galaxies and quasars, reaching back to within a billion years of the Big Bang. Experience with previous infrared space telescopes such as IRAS and ISO suggest that the SWIRE database will be a valuable source of research programs for a decade or more.

Click here for details on SWIRE's Catalogs, Images and other data products.

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by Dr. Carol Lonsdale and Dr. Russ Laher