NASA Delays WISE Launch

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2009-12-11 Print this article Print

NASA scratches the Dec. 11 launch of an unmanned satellite carrying an infrared-sensitive telescope that will image the entire sky. NASA next aims to launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer Dec. 14.

Concerned over an anomaly in the motion of a booster steering engine, NASA Dec. 11 delayed the launch of the WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) mission until Dec. 14. The new launch is currently scheduled between 9:09 and 9:23 EDT.

NASA said it has implemented plans to resolve the anomaly and the current weather forecast for the Dec. 14 launch calls for an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather during the launch window.

WISE is an unmanned satellite carrying an infrared-sensitive telescope that will image the entire sky. The spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months. NASA hopes the mission will uncover hidden cosmic objects, including the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.

Powered by solar panels and orbiting several hundred miles above the dividing line between night and day on Earth, the telescope will look out at right angles to the Sun and will always point away from Earth. As WISE orbits from the North pole to the equator to the South pole and then back up to the North pole, the telescope will sweep out a circle in the sky. As the Earth moves around the Sun, this circle will move around the sky, and after six months WISE will have observed the whole sky.

Each picture will cover an area of the sky three times larger than the full Moon. After six months WISE will have taken nearly 1.5 million pictures covering the entire sky. Each picture will have one megapixel at each of four different wavelengths that range from 5-to-35 times longer than the longest waves the human eye can see.


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