Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Great news for asteroid surveys from WISE and Arecibo

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

04-10-2010 22:35 CDT


JPL issued a press release today announcing that the WISE mission will be carrying on surveying the sky even though it has run out of coolant. This is a huge surprise, given that NASA's 2010 Astrophysics Senior Review Committee did not recommend to extend the mission beyond its primary, cryocooled one, according to this story. Without any more solid hydrogen cooling its detectors, WISE is now blind to two of its four infrared wavelengths. But the remaining two wavelengths happen to be good ones for mapping cold objects within our solar system, including asteroids and comets.

I saw an update on WISE's comet survey at today's Division of Planetary Sciences meeting. They've already discovered 19 comets (including 3 cases of new cometary activity on previously known bodies); they've also discovered 5 Centaurs and observed 13 others.

I also ran into radio astronomer Lance Benner in the hallway and asked for an update on radio observations of near-Earth asteroids. He said they're very busy observing Hartley 2 (the target for Deep Impact's November 4 encounter), and that they've recently been funded to do more near-Earth asteroid followup than they've been able to do for quite some time. Optical astronomers measure the challenge of their targets in visual magnitude, with magnitudes below minus 20 being really faint. Radio astronomers measure the challenge of their targets using "signal-to-noise ratio," a measure of how difficult it is to pick the body the background "hiss." Lance told me they're now routinely observing near-Earth objects down to a signal-to-noise ratio of 20, which is a much smaller number than has prevailed recently. Yay!

See other posts from October 2010


Or read more blog entries about:


Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

Essential Advocacy

Our Advocacy Program provides each Society member a voice in the process.

Funding is critical. The more we have, the more effective we can be, translating into more missions, more science, and more exploration.


Featured Images

Comparison of Schiaparelli and Opportunity landing locations
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera image of Curiosity landing site
Schiaparelli landing site, after landing attempt
Ewen Whitaker
More Images

Featured Video

The Planetary Post - Star Trek 50th Anniversary

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join The Planetary Society

Let’s explore the cosmos together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!