NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, is busy surveying the landscape of the infrared sky, building up a catalogue of cosmic specimens—everything from distant galaxies to “failed” stars, called brown dwarfs.
Closer to home, the mission is picking out an impressive collection of asteroids and comets, some known and some never seen before. Most of these hang out in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter, but a small number are near-Earth objects — asteroids and comets with orbits that pass within about 48 million kilometres (30 million miles) of Earth’s orbit. By studying a small sample of near-Earth objects, WISE will learn more about the population as a whole. How do their sizes differ, and how many objects are dark versus light?
“We are taking a census of a small sample of near-Earth objects to get a better idea of how they vary,” said Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NEOWISE, a program to catalogue asteroids seen with WISE.
Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL-Caltech.