Friday, April 15, 2011

NASA Photos Bring Millions of Galaxies and Asteroids Down to Earth

NASA has unveiled a flood of photos showing millions galaxies, stars and asteroids photographed by a prolific sky-mapping telescope that ended its mission earlier this year. For the first time, the space agency publicly released more than half of the 2.7 million images taken by its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope during its mission to map the entire sky.

WISE launched in December 2009 and spent 14 months scanning the heavens in infrared light before shutting down this past February. The $320 space telescope hunted for asteroids and comets, as well as more distant cosmic objects revealed by their faint glow. WISE's infrared eyes were especially useful for peering through dense layers of dust to capture stunning space photos of previously unseen objects in unprecedented detail.

The telescope's observations have been used by mission scientists since they first started rolling in, but this is the first time a large amount of the data collected by WISE is being opened to the public, including scientists not affiliated with the project. Researchers are expecting the broadened exposure of the photos will enable a new wave of scientific discoveries.

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