Space telescope picks out potentially hazardous asteroids
NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-fieldSurvey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope has had a pretty interestinglife. Originally operational between 2009 and 2011 as the Wide-fieldInfrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the probe was brought out of hibernation in 2013, and tasked with an all new mission – spotting,tracking and characterizing asteroids and comets that approach closetto Earth.
The resurrected telescope has nowreached a big milestone, releasing its entire second year Near-Earth Object (NEO) tracking data tothe public. Perhaps most interestingly, eight of the discoveredobjects have been classified, based on their size and theproximity of their orbit to Earth, as potentially hazardous asteroidsor PHAs.
Over the last year, the telescope hassnapped an astonishing 5.1 million infrared images. Since beginning the survey at the end of 2013, it's measured more than19,000 asteroids and comets at infrared wavelengths, discovering 250all new objects, including four new comets. The recorded data alsoprovides details of the origins of the objects.
"By studying the distribution oflighter and darker colored material, NEOWISE data gives us a betterunderstanding of the origins of the NEOs, originating from eitherdifferent parts of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter orthe icier comet populations," said the mission's deputy principalinvestigator, NASA's James Bauer.
For more on the new NEOWISEdata, you can take a look at the visualization below. It includes every object spotted by the telescope so far, and does a pretty good jobof conveying just how cluttered our solar system really is.