Bluegrass Heavens: A Decade of Discoveries Celebrated by NEOWISE Space Telescope Mission


The NEOWISE space telescope mission, initially launched in 2009 under the name WISE, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Named after the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, the telescope was reactivated in 2013 and renamed NEOWISE. Its primary mission was to map the entire sky in infrared light, thus identifying the most luminous galaxies in the universe and the nearest stars to the Sun. It was also tasked with detecting asteroids and comets in our solar system.

The telescope completed its primary mission within a year, producing millions of images of the sky and discovering thousands of new celestial objects. Post its primary mission, the telescope entered a hibernation phase in 2011 due to overheating issues. However, it was reactivated in 2013 to aid NASA’s NEOWISE project which aimed to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs).

Since its reactivation, NEOWISE has been instrumental in detecting NEOs. It has discovered 34,000 new asteroids and 19 new comets. The telescope’s infrared detections provide crucial data about the size and composition of these objects, aiding scientists in assessing potential threats to Earth.

Among its notable discoveries is the comet C/2020 F3, also known as Comet NEOWISE, which was visible from Earth in mid-2020. The comet was one of the few in the 21st century that could be seen with the naked eye, providing a significant opportunity for astronomers and the general public.

In celebration of its 10th year, the NEOWISE team is planning to release a new set of data collected over the last four years. This data will provide an even more comprehensive view of the objects in our solar system and beyond, contributing significantly to our understanding of the universe.

To summarize, the NEOWISE space telescope mission has been a valuable resource in the field of astronomy over the past decade. From mapping the entire sky in infrared light to identifying potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, the telescope has provided crucial data to the scientific community. Its discoveries, such as Comet NEOWISE, have also captured the public’s interest and advanced our understanding of the universe. As it enters its eleventh year, the NEOWISE team looks forward to continuing this important work and contributing further to our knowledge of the cosmos.



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