20 February 2010

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer: in Ur sky, surveyen Ur Milky Way

Wow, I remember, when I was in college, being blown away by the images coming back from the Hubble telescope. Just take a look now at what the WISE satellite is showing us! WISE began its total-sky survey in infrared a week ago from tomorrow, but it has been snapping photos since just before New Year's. My favorites right now are the Andromeda photos.

M31 Andromeda Galaxy, from the WISE satellite
Oh, my sweet M31: so close, yet so far.

To back up for a second... That's a total-sky survey that the WISE team is planning to complete in six months. That alone is cool. The W in WISE stands for Wide-field. According to the mission website, each photo snapped by WISE covers an area of the sky equal to the area of three full moons. If that doesn't sound huge to you, consider the way astronomer Phil Plait, once who worked with Hubble, put it: "Hubble could take picture after picture for weeks and not get a view of the sky as large as WISE does in a few minutes," adding, "of course, the Hubble image would be a whole lot more detailed."

So far, WISE has discovered
a comet and a near-Earth asteriod and has been just generally really cool.

... about as cool as the Hubble Space Telescope
continues to be.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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