Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WISE Scans for Comets and Asteroids

This movie shows asteroids observed so far by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. As WISE scans the sky from its polar orbit, more and more asteroids and comets are caught in its infrared vision. The mission has surveyed about three-fourths of the sky; however, data for only about 50 percent of the sky has been processed for asteroids and comets at this time.

The white dots show asteroids observed by WISE -- most of these are in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter, and some, the Trojans, orbit in front of, or behind, Jupiter. The red dots represent newfound near-Earth objects, which are asteroids and comets with orbits that come relatively close to Earth's path around the sun. The green dots are previously known near-Earth objects observed by WISE. The yellow squares show all comets seen by WISE so far. [The blue dots represent the five inner planets, from Mercury to Jupiter.]

As of May 24, 2010, WISE has seen more than 60,000 asteroids. It has observed more than 70 comets, 12 of which are new, and about 200 near-Earth objects, more than 50 of which are new.

WISE is an all-sky survey, snapping pictures of the whole sky, including everything from asteroids to stars to powerful, distant galaxies.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ULCA/JHU

Notes: Please click here to watch the movie; unfortunately, I'm not able to upload the video to Blogger. For more information on this topic, please see WISE Makes Progress on Its Space Rock Catalog. With regard to the "Trojans," the asteroids that orbit in front of Jupiter (at the top of the image) are actually known as the "Greeks." The "Trojans" are the large mass of asteroids behind Jupiter (at the bottom of the image).

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