The WISE Mission

Photo of WISE arriving at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Credit: NASA.

WISE, or the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, is scheduled to blast into space in December aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from NASA”s Space Launch Complex 2. Orbiting the Earth, WISE will scan the entire sky at infrared wavelengths to unveil all sorts of unseen cosmic treasures.

This infrared surveyor will pick up not only hundreds of thousands of new asteroids in our main asteroid belt, and hundreds of near-Earth objects, but will uncover the coldest stars, called brown dwarfs, perhaps even one closer to us than our closest known neighbor, Proxima Centauri, which is 4 light-years away. More distant finds will include nurseries of stars, swirling planet-building disks and the universe’s most luminous galaxies billions of light-years away.

The data will help answer fundamental questions about how solar systems and galaxies form, and will provide the astronomical community with mountains of data to mine.

The mission will scan the sky from a sun-synchronous orbit, 500 kilometers (about 311 miles) above Earth. After a one-month checkout period, it will map the whole sky over a period of six months.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing will take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.


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