November 16, 2013
NASA Releases New And Improved WISE Catalog And Atlas
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new and improved atlas and catalog, brimming with data on three-quarters of a billion objects detected during two full scans of the sky, were released by NASA on Friday from their Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.
In 2010, WISE scanned the entire sky in infrared light, snapping a dozen pictures of every star and galaxy. The spacecraft ran out of the coolant needed to chill some of its heat-seeking detectors in October of that year. To look for asteroids and comets, NASA decided to fund a second scan of the sky in a project called NEOWISE.
The purpose of each scan was different, so the images provided different information. NASA has funded a project called AllWISE to stack all the WISE images from both scans, which will double the exposure times and make new stars and galaxies visible.
"By stacking up the data, we have created a monster database with dozens of individual measurements on every one of the infrared sources we detect," said Ned Wright of UCLA, the principal investigator of WISE.
The enhanced WISE images will provide the ability to search for nearby stars, especially cooler ones that only show up in infrared light. To us, objects that are closer appear to move across the night skies, while the stars appear to stay still. The new atlas will allow astronomers to look at images of the sky taken six months apart; if something jumps across the images, then it must be located nearby and could be a never-before-seen neighbor.
Studies of distant galaxies will be enhanced by the new catalog as well. The images will bring those galaxies that were invisible to us before out of hiding.
"The extra depth of AllWISE lets us see galaxies so distant that their light was emitted in the first half of the history of the universe,” said Peter Eisenhardt, the WISE project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
NASA has also decided to re-awaken the WISE spacecraft for a second scan for asteroids.