Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer


WISE Overview

Artist concept of the WISE spacecraft Artist's concept of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WISE launched into the morning skies above Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California on Dec. 14, 2009. By early 2011, it had finished scanning the entire sky twice in infrared light, snapping pictures of three-quarters of a billion objects, including remote galaxies, stars and asteroids. Today, astronomers continue to mine a cosmic quarry of data provided by WISE.


Upon completing its surveys in 2011, WISE was put to sleep. But in Sept. 2013, NASA reactivated the mission with the primary goal of scanning for near-Earth objects, or NEOs. Though the WISE mission had been doing asteroid searches before it entered hibernation, through a project called NEOWISE, that had not been its main purpose until now. For its new chapter in life, the mission is officially renamed NEOWISE.


WISE discoveries include:

--Imaging the most luminous galaxy in the universe, shining with the light of more than 300 trillion suns. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4593

--Helping to largely rule out the theory of a "Planet X" orbiting in the far reaches of our solar system. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4073

--Uncovering millions of hidden black holes. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=3496

--Discovering the coolest class of stars.

More than a thousand studies making use of WISE data have been published in the scientific literature.


NEOWISE discoveries include:

--Locating the possible source family for a certain group of dark near-Earth asteroids.

--Making the best count yet of potentially hazardous asteroids in our solar system. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=3371

--Finding there are significantly fewer mid-size near-Earth objects than previously thought, and that NASA has found more than 90 percent of the largest near-Earth asteroids. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=3154

--Locating the first known "Trojan" asteroid to share the same orbital path around the sun as Earth.


NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages and operates the newly activated NEOWISE mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The WISE mission was selected competitively under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.


The principal investigator for WISE was Edward (Ned) Wright at UCLA. The principal investigator for NEOWISE is Amy Mainzer of JPL.


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WISE will find the most luminous galaxies in the universe -- incredibly energetic objects bursting with new stars. The infrared telescope can see the glow of dust that shrouds these galaxies, hiding them from visible-light telescopes. An example of a dusty, luminous galaxy is shown here in this infrared portrait of the "Cigar" galaxy taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Dust is color-coded red, and starlight blue. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Steward Observatory

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The telescope on NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer

The telescope on the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, is shown here with the aperture cover removed. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Dynamics Lab

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Related Links

WISE Launch Press Kit (1.97 Mb - PDF)

WISE Fact Sheet (289 Kb - PDF)

Asteroids, Comets, and more

Asteroid Fast Facts

WISE mission website