May 20, 2009

NASA: WISE ready to meet its satellite

The U.S. space agency says its wide-field infrared survey explorer instrument named WISE is ready to be joined with its satellite for launch later this year.

The Space Dynamics Laboratory in North Logan, Utah, the builder of the instrument, said it has shipped WISE to the Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., where it will be integrated onto the satellite.

The SDL-built WISE instrument will collect millions of images, from which hundreds of millions of astronomical objects will be cataloged, said Doug Lemon, director of SDL, who said WISE will chart space in infrared light, searching for the closest stars and asteroids, the origins of star systems and some of the brightest galaxies in the universe.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the new instrument is designed to provide a full sky, infrared map that will enable the James Webb Space Telescope, when launched, to more efficiently target objects of interest in space.

Lemon said WISE will have hundreds of times the infrared sensitivity of any previous all-sky survey instrument, measuring the diameters of more than 100,000 asteroids in our solar system and providing a complete inventory of nearby young stars.