NASA WISE: Infrared observatory will look for near-Earth asteroids.

WISE_zetaoph.jpg.CROP.original-originalI have some great news about NASA: Next month they will be reactivating the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE! This observatory orbits the Earth and sees in the far-infrared, well outside what our eyes can detect. This is the domain where cooler objects in space emit light: dust clouds, planets, and asteroids.

WISE was launched in late 2009 and spent 13 months surveying the sky. Since it looks at what we call “thermal infrared” light, its cameras had to be cooled to keep from interfering with the observations—you don’t want to have your own telescope glowing brightly! It ran out of coolant in 2011 (as was expected) and was put into hibernation.

And now it gets a second chance at life. And what a chance: NASA has approved an extended three-year mission for WISE. The goal is to map out potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids—that is, space rocks that can hit us—something that was part of its mission when it was still active. Two of its four cameras can operate without coolant, and they should be sufficient to do the job.

via NASA WISE: Infrared observatory will look for near-Earth asteroids..

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