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SCIENCE

US lauches space-mapping satellite WISE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-14

NASA launched its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite from Califoria's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday. By the end of its 10-month mission to map the cosmos, WISE will have taken nearly 1.5 million pictures of the entire sky.

AFP - NASA on Monday launched its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite on a mission to orbit Earth and scan the sky in infrared light to photograph the glow of hundreds of millions of objects.

The launch, which had been delayed from Friday after problems were discovered in a rocket booster steering engine, went ahead on schedule and flawlessly at 6:09 am (1409 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

WISE, which has been called "the most sensitive set of wide-angle infrared goggles ever," will orbit 300 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth's surface for 10 months as it hunts for and collects data on dim objects such as dust clouds, brown dwarf stars and asteroids in the dark spaces between planets and stars.

The satellite will map the cosmos in infrared light, covering the whole sky one-and-a-half times and snapping pictures of everything from near-Earth asteroids to faraway galaxies bursting with new stars.

"The last time we mapped the whole sky at these particular infrared wavelengths was 26 years ago," Edward Wright of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), who is the principal investigator of the mission, said on NASA's website.

"Infrared technology has come a long way since then. The old all-sky infrared pictures were like impressionist paintings -- now, we'll have images that look like actual photographs."

WISE is expected to map the locations and sizes of roughly 200,000 asteroids and give scientists a clearer idea of how many large and potentially dangerous asteroids are near Earth.

WISE will also help answer questions about the formation of stars and the evolution and structure of galaxies, including the Milky Way.

By the end of its mission, WISE will have taken nearly 1.5 million pictures covering the entire sky, NASA said.

 

Date created : 2009-12-14

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