NASA on Monday successfully launched a space telescope that is designed to create a highly detailed map of the heavens. It will also survey near-Earth objects, both asteroids and comets, with orbits that come close to crossing Earth's path and potentially posing a threat to life.
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, was launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base atop a Delta II rocket.
|The WISE Telescope|
WISE will use an infrared camera to map the cosmos, capturing everything from near-Earth asteroids to distant galaxies teeming with stars.
"The last time we mapped the whole sky at these particular infrared wavelengths was 26 years ago," noted UCLA's Edward Wright, who is principal mission manager.
"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," said Wright.
WISE will provide detailed information about the size, composition and texture of near-Earth objects such as comets and asteroids.