NASA to launch asteroid‐detecting spacecraft Dec. 9 from California

By Mike Albee
LA Business Tech Examiner
December 7, 2009
The WISE satellite

The WISE satellite

On Friday, Nov 11th the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is scheduled to launch the Wide‐field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 6:09 a.m. PST. The project has been almost 12 years in the making and cost $320 million, including operations and launching.

Orbiting the Earth at 300 miles high, the spacecraft is equipped with a 16‐inch telescope and infrared detectors. It will take pictures of the entire sky field twice a year and will be used for several projects, including getting better insight into asteroids that may one day threaten the Earth.

Most of the light from stars and planets in the universe comes in the form of infrared, or heat radiation, with wavelengths too long for our eyes to pick up. In other words, in order to view the entire light spectrum, scientists had to get artificial eyes into space.

WISE is a successor to the Infrared Astronomy Satellite, or IRAS, which was launched in 1983, and the precursor for the giant James Webb Space Telescope to be launched in 2014.

But where the IRAS had a total of 62 pixels in its camera, WISE has 4 million, said Edward L. Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles. As a result, WISE will be able to survey enormously larger volumes of space.

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