An infrared view from NASA's NEOWISE mission of the Oort cloud comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen). The spacecraft observed this comet on April 20th, 2010 as it traveled through the constellation Sagittarius. Comet Christensen was nearly 370 million miles (600 million kilometers) from Earth at the time.
The image is half of a degree of the sky on each side. Infrared light with wavelengths of 3.4, 12 and 22 micron channels are mapped to blue, green, and red, respectively. The signal at these wavelengths is dominated primarily by the comet's dust thermal emission, giving it a golden hue.
The WISE spacecraft was put into hibernation in 2011 upon completing its goal of surveying the entire sky in infrared light. WISE cataloged three quarters of a billion objects, including asteroids, stars and galaxies. In August 2013, NASA decided to reinstate the spacecraft on a mission to find and characterize more asteroids.
JPL manages NEOWISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. 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.