> posted by   on April 9th 2012

Atlas of half billion stars

NASA unveiled a new atlas and catalogue of the entire infrared sky today showing more than a half billion stars, galaxies and other objects captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.

The WISE catalogue of the entire sky meets the mission’s fundamental objective. The individual WISE exposures have been combined into an atlas of more than 18,000 images covering the sky and a catalogue listing the infrared properties of more than 560 million individual objects found in the images. Most of the objects are stars and galaxies, with roughly equal numbers of each. Many of them have never been seen before.

WISE Mission was launched on December 9, 2009 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, USA.

NASA’s team managed and operated WISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The spacecraft was put into hibernation mode after it scanned the entire sky twice, completing its main objectives. Edward Wright is the principal investigator and is at UCLA. The mission was selected competitively under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instruments and spacecraft (661 kilograms) were built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah and by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo.

Science operations and data processing took place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Why Infrared?

Infrared is one of the many invisible ‘colours’ of this cosmic rainbow of light. It is similar to visible light but has longer wavelengths and lower energy. Any object with heat, including a human, is aglow with infrared. Current practical uses include medical imaging, military surveillance and ocean studies.

The main science goals of the Wise Mission were:

To find the nearest and coolest stars

To find the most luminous galaxies in the universe

To find and study asteroids in our solar system

To better understand the evolution of planets, stars and galaxies

The closest of WISE finds were near-Earth objects, both asteroids and comets, with orbits that come close to crossing Earth’s path. The next closest targets for WISE were cool ‘failed’ stars called ‘brown dwarfs’. The most distant objects that stand out like ripe cherries in WISE’s view are tremendously energetic galaxies. Other WISE finds included: newborn stars; disks of planetary debris around young stars; a detailed look at the structure of our Milky Way galaxy; clusters of galaxies in the far universe and more. The most interesting discoveries lay in the groundwork for follow-up studies with other missions, such as NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s upcoming SOFIA airborne telescope and NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Powerful ground-based telescopes also followed up on WISE discoveries.

Click on the website to link to download the high resolution tiff file in 300 MB

More information: NASA


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