Back in August (it seems so, so long ago, back when I was a young man, not yet in my prime or as codgerly as I am today [I am working my way to being a curmudgeon]), I told you about how the WISE spacecraft was set to come back to life for a new mission observing the asteroids.
This weekend, during the Riverside Astronomical Societies, free and open to the public, general meeting we were fortunate enough to have Professor Ned Wright from the department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA and a member of the WISE team.
I was astonished at some of the tasks that had to be undertaken to even get WISE in orbit.
For instance, because the actual spacecraft took only 40% of the payload room in the smallest rocket that NASA had, the team had to haul 1,000 liters of liquid helium up to the top of the Delta 2 launch vehicle every day (in two 500 liter containers) every day. Since the launch was delayed for almost a month, it was an incredible undertaking.
With only a 40cm (~16 inch) mirror, WISE isn’t the largest telescope in space, but the results are impressive. During its primary mission WISE completed 3 total all sky scans in the several infra-red bands. Of course, like most current missions, the amount of data from WISE alone will take years to understand. When you combine WISE’s data with other data that has been collected, like from Spitzer, it seems a most daunting task.
But new discoveries are being made, like a nearby (3 parsecs distant) star system, named WISE 1049-5319, that wasn’t even know until WISE found it. The pair of dim brown dwarf stars they are the third-closest star system to us, after the Alpha Centauri about 4.3 light years away, and Barnard’s star about six light years distant.
It was very enlightening and encouraging.
With a new lease on life, WISE will continue to shed light (at least IR light) on the solar system (it is really good at finding dim dark asteroids that may hit the Earth) and other brown dwarf discoveries for years to come.
Welcome back WISE.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +