Indonesia Shared

13.12.09

Nasa prepares to launch all-seeing telescope to find new asteroids, stars and even a new planet in our solar system

WISE
The Wide-field Infra red Survey Explorer (WISE) 
will be launched on Monday in California

Scientists are set to launch an all-seeing telescope with an ability to map the sky 
hundreds of times greater than other observatories.

The Wide-field Infra red Survey Explorer (WISE) will now be launched on Monday after the mission, scheduled for for today, was delayed because of a problem with the spacecraft's steering engine.

WISE, which will blast off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, will scan the entire sky in infra red light in search of never-before-seen asteroids, comets, the coolest and dimmest stars, and the most luminous galaxies.

Infra red is light beyond the red part of the rainbow that is invisible to our eyes. 


The Nasa spacecraft, about the size of a Smart car, will snap 7,500 pictures a day at four different infra red wavelengths and the findings could totally revise the familiar portrait of our solar system.

One of its main tasks is to catalogue objects posing a danger to Earth.

Some astronomers have speculated the telescope could even reveal a huge gas planet in the outer reaches of our solar system.

Peter Eisenhardt, a project scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told The Times: 'What we're doing is opening up the sky in a way that hasn't been possible before.

'It will transform the picture of our solar neighbourhood.'

The £195million satellite will orbit Earth 15 times a day, in low orbit 325 miles above the ground.


The mission will last about 10 months, until its supply of solid hydrogen runs out, and will scan the entire sky about one-and-a-half times.


Solar panels will provide WISE with the electricity it needs to operate and it will take six months to orbit the sky once.

At this point, WISE will have taken nearly 1,500,000 pictures with each having one megapixel at each of four different wavelengths that range from five to 35 times longer than the longest waves the human eye can see.

'By studying these longer waves, we can look at the source so flight that are cooler than, say, light bulb filaments or the sun that normally produces the light that we see,' said Professor Edward Wright, an astronomer at the University of California, who is leading the WISE mission.

Milkyway
Panoramic view of the entire infrared sky reveals the distribution of galaxies beyond the Milky Way. WISE will be mapping the entire night sky in infra red

WISE
WISE

With enough resources to carry the mission for a further four months, the telescope will then be able to double up observations on half of the sky.

Professor Michael Barlow, a planetary scientist at University College London, said the telescope may even discover a new planet.

He says there was a theory abound 'around 20 years ago' that there was a giant planet called Nemesis, way out beyond Pluto.

While the theory has fallen out of favour in recent years, Professor Barlow said the new hi-tech space surveyor could be the piece of technology that finds any such planet.
Two other infra red telescopes currently in space, Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Herschel observatory, have greater sensitivity and resolution than Wise. 


Those instruments concentrate on small segments of space, and Wise will provide a broader picture.

Spitzer is like 'a telephoto lens, while Wise is like a wide-angle camera,' a Nasa spokesman said.

WISE’s predecessor, the Infra red Astronomical Satellite, was launched in 1983 and could capture just 62 pixels, while WISE's four infra red detectors have one million pixels each.

Nasa
Nasa scientists seen here working on the all-seeing telescope which will will scan the entire sky in infra red light in search of never-before-seen asteroids, comets, and the most luminous galaxies

'The last time we mapped the whole sky at these particular infra red wavelengths was 26 years ago,' the mission's principal investigator Professor Wright added. 


'Infra red technology has come a long way since then. The old all-sky infra red pictures were like impressionist paintings. Now, we’ll have images that look like actual photographs.'


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