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WISE, NASA’s infrared surveyor, launches successfully

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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WISE satellite launch from Vandenberg AFB in CaliforniaAfter a series of delays, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) began its mission Monday morning, rocketing toward orbit at 9:09 A.M. (Eastern Standard Time). WISE’s launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was initially delayed because of a scheduling conflict with a satellite launch on the east coast, then twice pushed back due to an anomaly in a steering engine on its booster rocket.

WISE is an infrared astronomy platform charged with mapping the entire sky from a polar orbit around Earth. Following a monthlong checkout, the satellite is designed to spend nine months surveying the sky in the infrared wavelengths that are largely blocked by the planet’s atmosphere and hence inaccessible to ground-based observers. Among the tasks WISE may accomplish on orbit are cataloguing dim, failed stars known as brown dwarfs, some of which may lie closer to the sun than the nearest presently known stellar neighbors; giving sky watchers a better idea of the threat presented by near-Earth asteroids; and singling out interesting targets both near and far for larger telescopes to study in greater detail.

Photo credit: Bill Hartenstein, United Launch Alliance

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  1. 1. scienCe freaK! 7:51 pm 12/14/2009

    Do you people always talk this much?

    Link to this
  2. 2. Michael Hanlon 8:47 pm 12/15/2009

    No, sometimes we quietly sit and do our sudoku puzzles. Do you sudoku? You see, we are WISE people who have to come up with acronyms that use both survey and explore to make a neat sounding venture’s name.

    Link to this

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