Feeds

NASA's NEOWISE wraps asteroid belt survey

Lots of new heavenly bodies for our viewing pleasure

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA's Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, aka NEOWISE, has wrapped up its survey of our solar system's "small bodies, asteroids and comets".

Over the past four months, it has clocked up a plethora of previously undiscovered objects, including "20 comets (see pic, details here), more than 33,000 asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and 134 near-Earth objects (NEOs)", the agency explains.

Montage of comets discovered by NEOWISE. Pic: NASA

NASA's montage of comets discovered by NEOWISE.

NEOWISE is an extension of the WISE mission, which launched in December 2009, tasked with mapping the entire sky in search of "millions of hidden objects, including asteroids, 'failed' stars and powerful galaxies".

In October last year, after capturing over 2.7 million images, WISE ran out of the frozen-hydrogen cryogen which kept its IR detectors cool. However, since two instruments could still operate at a relatively mild -203°C, NASA decided it could usefully turn its attention to objects closer to home.

That job included a complete sweep of the asteroid belt, which actually took longer than a complete WISE sky survey. Since the spacecraft orbits at an altitude of 525km, passing over the poles 15 times a day and in the same direction as the asteroid belt bodies orbit the sun, it was obliged to "catch up to, and lap, the movement of the asteroids in order to see them all".

Amy Mainzer, principal NEOWISE investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion lab, explained: "You can think of Earth and the asteroids as racehorses moving along in a track. We're moving along together around the sun, but the main belt asteroids are like horses on the outer part of the track. They take longer to orbit than us, so we eventually lap them."

The first batch of WISE mission data will be released in April. The spacecraft, meanwhile, will be put into hibernation and "could be called back into service in the future".

NASA has more here. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.