NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft opened its "eyes" after more than two years of slumber to see the starry sky with the same clarity achieved during its prime mission. This image of a patch of sky in the constellation Pisces is among the first taken by the revived spacecraft's infrared cameras, and shows the ultimate target: asteroids. Appearing as a string of red dots, an asteroid can be seen in a series of exposures captured by the spacecraft.
The rocky body belongs to our solar system's main belt, a band of asteroids that orbits between Mars and Jupiter. NEOWISE is on the lookout for both main belt asteroids such as these, and especially for near-Earth objects (NEOs), which include asteroids and comets that pass relatively close to Earth.
The asteroid is called Holda, or 872, and was discovered in 1917.
The faint red streak in the image is an Earth-orbiting satellite passing above the NEOWISE spacecraft.
NEOWISE originated as a mission called WISE, which was put into hibernation in 2011 upon completing its goal of surveying the entire sky in infrared light. WISE cataloged three quarters of a billion objects, including asteroids, stars and galaxies. In August 2013, NASA decided to reinstate the spacecraft on a mission to find and characterize more asteroids.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Note: For more information, see PIA17810: NEOWISE Opens its Eyes and NASA's Asteroid Hunter Spacecraft Returns First Images after Reactivation.