Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WISE Starts New Mission... Without Coolant

A prolific NASA space telescope that is mapping the entire sky has run out of vital coolant needed to keep its detectors from warming up, but that hasn't stopped its mission to seek out hidden asteroids, comets and other objects. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, is turning its camera eye on asteroids and comets within our solar system as part of its new NEOWISE Post-Cryogenic Mission.

This allows the space telescope to continue scanning the cosmos despite the lack of frozen hydrogen onboard to keep its infrared detectors as cold as designed. "Two of our four infrared detectors still work even at warmer temperatures, so we can use those bands to continue our hunt for asteroids and comets," said Amy Mainzer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in a statement. Mainzer is leading the WISE telescope's new mission.

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