NASA Asteroid Tracking Data of NEOWISE Opened to Public

NEOWISE Hearts Comet Lovejoy

The NEOWISE spacecraft viewed comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on January 30, 2015, at a solar distance of 120 million miles (193 million kilometers). Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has opened data with millions of images of celestial objects, including asteroids, observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft for the public use.

The data consists of millions of infrared images and billions of infrared measurements of asteroids, stars, galaxies and quasars spans data obtained between December 13, 2013, and December 13, 2014.

“One of the most satisfying things about releasing these cutting-edge astronomical data to the public is seeing what other exciting and creative projects the scientific community does with them,” said Amy Mainzer, of NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California.

In its first year of the survey, NEOWISE captured 2.5 million image sets, providing data on over 10,000 solar system objects. The data revealed 129 new solar system objects, including 39 previously undiscovered near-Earth objects and each image also contains a multitude of background stars, nebulae and galaxies. More than 10 billion measurements are provided in the released NEOWISE data.

“And we’re far from finished,” said Mainzer. “We’re only into our second year of additional science collection, and we’ve already added another 21 new discoveries including six new near-Earth objects.”

NEOWISE is a space telescope that scans the skies for asteroids and comets picking up the heat signature of objects to calculate their true sizes.

Originally called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the spacecraft was placed in hibernation in 2011 but revived in September 2013, as NEOWISE to assist NASA to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

NASA said its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions in 2020s such as capturing a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in view of supporting the planned human journey to Mars.

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