NASA released the first set of public images from its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission on Wednesday releasing some stunning photographs of deep space. The WISE mission is designed to conduct a comprehensive survey of deep space in infrared light, which is expected to reveal previously unseen objects.
The first set of images from WISE, amongst others, includes that of a comet shooting across the sky in its predetermined orbit and several images of our neighbouring galaxy, the Andromeda.
|The immense Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or simply M31, is captured in full in this new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE|
The $320 million WISE was launched last year on 14 December and is being operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Having completed a month of testing the satellite has begun a 6-month survey of the sky. It is also equipped with a 40-centimeter telescope.
Conducting its survey in the infrared band, WISE will scan the most luminous galaxies in the universe, the stars closest to the sun, as well as the largest asteroids in the main asteroid belt, comets, brown dwarf stars and more than 50 galaxies that inhabit our "local group" of galaxies.
The mission has already begun to make its first discoveries, finding its first new comet, which not surprisingly has been dubbed WISE. A "dusty mass of ice," the comet is currently speeding into space about 109 million miles from the sun.
NASA expects the WISE mission to discover dozens of such space bodies.
"WISE has worked superbly," Ed Weiler, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. "These first images are proving the spacecraft's secondary mission of helping to track asteroids, comets and other stellar objects will be just as critically important as its primary mission of surveying the entire sky in infrared."
Though one of three infrared missions in space WISE has a much broader mission profile. The mission will expire sometime in October, when the coolant required to chill the satellite's instruments begins to run out.