NASA WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer)

WISE Basic Facts:
  • NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.
  • Is NASA's newest spacecraft.
  • Blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta II rocket at 6:09:33 a.m. local time (9:09 a.m. EST; 1409 GMT) on Monday 14 December 2009.
WISE Functions:
  • Will be able to survey the entire sky in infrared light.
  • It will circle the Earth over the North & South Poles.
  • This will be far superior to previous attempts at infrared surveys.
  • The last time the whole sky was mapped at these infrared wavelengths was 26 years ago.
  • Will have role in planetary protection by detecting some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids & comets.
  • The mission will last ~ 9 months & will have scanned the entire sky ~ 1.5 times.
Infrared Imaging:
  • Infrared spectrum cannot be seen by humans.
  • These are longer wavelengths than the visible spectrum.
  • Good for seeing objects that are cold, dusty or far away.
  • WISE's infrared measurements will enable better estimates of asteroid sizes & compositions.
  • It will be able to find the coolest of the "failed" stars, or brown dwarfs (tried to become stars but failed to ignite).
  • WISE has also been designed to detect ultraluminous infrared galaxies to a distance of 10 billion light years over the entire sky.
  • These infrared ultraluminous galaxies were previously discovered by the predecessor survey (Infrared Astronomical Satellite).
WISE Technology:
  • 1,460-pound spacecraft.
  • Contains a 16-inch telescope.
  • WISE contains 4 state-of-the-art infrared detectors, each containing one million pixels.
  • It will map the entire sky at each of these 4 infrared wavelengths.
  • Sensitivity of the detectors is 100s - 1000s times greater than the predecessors.
  • The WISE telescope will be able to image the glow from objects ranging from -330 degrees F to 1,300 degrees F.
  • To enable the WISE spacecraft to sense the infrared glow of stars & galaxies, it must not give off any detectable infrared light of its own.
  • The telescope & detectors on WISE are chilled to ultra-cold temperatures.
  • A large cryostat (Thermos bottle-like) tank surrounds the equipment, & is filled with frozen hydrogen.
  • WISE will only have ~ 9-10 months to perform its survey of the Universe before the frozen hydrogen has gone.
  • The coldest of the WISE's detectors will operate at below 8 Kelvin (minus 445 degrees Fahrenheit).
WISE Construction & Monitoring:
  • The $320 million project is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • WISE will spend a month checking out its instruments before infrared scanning the sky for objects.
  • The scientific instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory from Logan, Utah.
  • The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. from Boulder, Colorado.
  • The science operations & data processing will be at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena.
WISE Instrument Cooperation:
  • The WISE spacecraft data will serve as navigation charts for other missions.
  • Specific WISE finds will be followed up by:
    • NASA's Hubble & Spitzer Space Telescopes
    • European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory.
    • NASA's upcoming Sofia & James Webb Space Telescope.

Image Credit NASA/JPL-CalTech

Posted by ALCHEssMIST.
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