Feeds

NASA's NEOWISE wraps asteroid belt survey

Lots of new heavenly bodies for our viewing pleasure

Top three mobile application threats

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.