“The old all-sky infrared pictures were like impressionist paintings..”

It’s been 26 years since the last infrared sky survey, and on Monday Nasa’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer [WISE] launched successfully from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta II rocket – BBC report here and full launch video here. WISE will be used to identify objects as diverse as the most luminous galaxies known, over 10 billion light-years away, and potentially hazardous Near Earth Objects (NEOs) [see fun video here]. Those NEOs do occasionally get very close. As well as everything in-between – including neighouring brown dwarfs, stars without sufficient mass to sustain nuclear fusion. From the JPL press release

After a one-month checkout, the mission will spend the next nine months mapping the cosmos in infrared light. It will cover the whole sky one-and-a-half times, snapping millions of pictures of everything from near-Earth asteroids to faraway galaxies bursting with new stars. “The last time we mapped the whole sky at these particular infrared wavelengths was 26 years ago,” said Edward (Ned) Wright of UCLA, who is the principal investigator of the mission. “Infrared technology has come a long way since then. The old all-sky infrared pictures were like impressionist paintings — now, we’ll have images that look like actual photographs.”

Below the fold there’s the more detailed pre-launch science briefing. But first, here’s a short introduction to the WISE mission by Amy Mainzer, deputy project scientist for the mission at JPL.
WISE pre-launch science briefing from NASAtelevision

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  • Greenflag


    Trying to lull us into a false sense of security eh with the lovely lady telling us that these newly imaged objects will not necessarily hit the earth . Hrrrumph . You can tell that one to the Dinosaurs ;)?

    BUt thanks anyway -There has to be scarier things out there against which to measure a collapsing Assembly .

  • Pete Baker


    The lovely lady has a point.

    Although, it only takes one such impact…

  • Greenflag

    ‘Although, it only takes one such impact…’

    Perhaps more than one . The KT event during the Cretacious period ( 65 million years ago) struck with the force of 100 million megatons. A James L Powell pointed out that was the equivalent of one Hiroshima sized bomb for every person now alive on the earth today, plus another billion to make assurance doubly sure so to speak.

    When your time is up your time is up, as the dinosaurs discovered . . And yet despite 70% of earthly life being wiped out then including the dinosaurs, here we are today looking back from space at the source of some of the five or six earlier mass extinctions .

    Life continues and is proving to be very difficult to eradicate completely . The Permian did in 90% plus of species, and life took 80 million years to recover to it’s previous species numbers . Life recovers and moves on wherever it can .

    Of course if you are talking of a direct hit within a thousand miles of one’s home then it’s goodnight Vienna and London and Dublin and Berlin and Paris etc .

    As the man said we are all extremely lucky to be here in the first place so we might as well enjoy it the best we can for it’s a one time event never to be repeated.