Feeds

NASA's NEOWISE wraps asteroid belt survey

Lots of new heavenly bodies for our viewing pleasure

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.