NS: Dark, dangerous asteroids found lurking near Earth

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NS: Dark, dangerous asteroids found lurking near Earth

Post by bystander » Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:10 pm

Dark, dangerous asteroids found lurking near Earth
New Scientist - 2010 March 05
An infrared space telescope has spotted several very dark asteroids that have been lurking unseen near Earth's orbit. Their obscurity and tilted orbits have kept them hidden from surveys designed to detect things that might hit our planet.

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DiscoveryNews: Dark Asteroids Found Near Earth

Post by bystander » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:26 pm

Dark Asteroids Found Near Earth
Discovery News - 2010 March 11
THE GIST:
  • A new telescope has found about 20 previously unknown dark asteroids.
  • Scientists think the objects may be extinct comets.
  • The WISE telescope will complete an all-sky survey of infrared-radiating objects in six months.

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Science@NASA: An Avalanche of Dark Asteroids

Post by bystander » Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:22 pm

An Avalanche of Dark Asteroids
Science@NASA - 2010 March 26
Imagine you're a Brontosaurus with your face in a prehistoric tree top, munching on fresh leaves. Your relatives have ruled planet Earth for more than 150 million years. Huge and strong, you feel invincible.

You're not.

Fast forward about 65 million years. A creature much smaller and weaker dominates the Earth now, with brains instead of brawn. Its brain is a lot larger than yours relative to its body size – plenty big enough to conceive a way to scan the cosmos for objects like the colossal asteroid that wrought the end of your kind.
WISE Scientists vs. Shady Celestial Characters
Space.com Video - 2010 March 26
Searching for dark stars and illuminating dim asteroids are two important assignments for one small telescopic spacecraft: Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer scientists take on the challenge.

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JPL: WISE Makes Progress on Its Space Rock Catalog

Post by bystander » Tue May 25, 2010 7:46 pm

WISE Makes Progress on Its Space Rock Catalog
NASA JPL WISE 2010-176 - 25 May 2010
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, is busy surveying the landscape of the infrared sky, building up a catalog of cosmic specimens -- everything from distant galaxies to "failed" stars, called brown dwarfs.

Closer to home, the mission is picking out an impressive collection of asteroids and comets, some known and some never seen before. Most of these hang out in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter, but a small number are near-Earth objects -- asteroids and comets with orbits that pass within about 48 million kilometers (30 million miles) of Earth's orbit. By studying a small sample of near-Earth objects, WISE will learn more about the population as a whole. How do their sizes differ, and how many objects are dark versus light?
...
About 190 near-Earth asteroids have been observed to date, of which more than 50 are new discoveries. All asteroid observations are reported to the NASA-funded International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, a clearinghouse for data on all solar system bodies at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.
...
A network of ground-based telescopes follows up and confirms the WISE finds, including the NASA-funded University of Arizona Spacewatch and Catalina Sky Survey projects, both near Tucson, Ariz., and the NASA-funded Magdalena Ridge Observatory near Socorro, N.M.

Some of the near-Earth asteroids detected so far are visibly dark, but it's too early to say what percentage. The team needs time to properly analyze and calibrate the data. When results are ready, they will be published in a peer-reviewed journal. WISE has not found an asteroid yet that would be too dark for detection by visible-light telescopes on the ground.
... WISE will also study Trojans, asteroids that run along with Jupiter in its orbit around the sun and travel in two packs -- one in front of and one behind the gas giant. It has seen more than 800, and by the end of the mission, should have observed about half of all 4,500 known Trojans. The results will address dueling theories about how the outer planets evolved.

With its infrared vision, WISE is good at many aspects of asteroid watching. First, infrared light gives a better estimate of an asteroid's size. Imagine a light, shiny rock lying next to a bigger, dark one in the sunshine. From far away, the rocks might look about the same size. That's because they reflect about the same amount of visible sunlight. But, if you pointed an infrared camera at them, you could tell the dark one is bigger. Infrared light is related to the heat radiated from the rock itself, which, in turn, is related to its size.

A second benefit of infrared is the ability to see darker asteroids. Some asteroids are blacker than coal and barely reflect any visible light. WISE can see their infrared glow. The mission isn't necessarily hunting down dark asteroids in hiding, but collecting a sample of all different types. Like a geologist collecting everything from pumice to quartz, WISE is capturing the diversity of cosmic rocks in our solar neighborhood.

In the end, WISE will provide rough size and composition profiles for hundreds of near-Earth objects, about 100 to 200 of which will be new.

WISE has also bagged about a dozen new comets to date. The icy cousins to asteroids are easy for the telescope to spot because, as the comets are warmed by the sun, gas and dust particles blow off and glow with infrared light. Many of the comets found by WISE so far are so-called long-period comets, meaning they spend billions of years circling the sun in the frigid hinterlands of our solar system, before they are shuttled into the inner, warmer parts. Others are termed short-period comets -- they spend most of their lives hanging around the space near Jupiter, occasionally veering into the space closer to the terrestrial planets. WISE's measurements of these snowy dirtballs will allow scientists to study their size, composition and density. Measurements of the comets' orbits will help explain what kicks these objects out of their original, more distant orbits and in toward the sun.

WISE will complete one-and-a-half scans of the sky in October of this year.
Image
This animation shows asteroids and comets observed so far by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE
› View animation and caption

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PS: Progress on WISE's asteroid survey

Post by neufer » Fri May 28, 2010 4:02 pm

http://www.planetary.org/blog/article/00002513/ wrote:
The Planetary Society Blog
Progress on WISE's asteroid survey
May. 28, 2010 By Emily Lakdawalla

<<WISE image of a Comet and a Cluster
Image

A mosaic of three separate WISE observations encompasses the full range of distances among objects observable by the spacecraft. At left is the globular cluster Messier 3 (M3). M3 was discovered in the constellation Canes Venatici by Charles Messier in 1764, and first seen to be made of stars around 1784 by William Herschel. It is about 150 light-years across and 34,000 light-years from Earth. On the right side of the image is Comet C/2008 Q3 (Garradd). At the time the comet was observed by WISE it was a distance of 419 million kilometers (2.789 AU) from Earth. But we are just catching it while it is near the Sun. The orbit calculated for Comet C/2008 Q3 (Garradd) is inclined to the plane of the Solar System by nearly 140 degrees and takes it trillions of kilometers from the Sun. It made its closest approach to the Sun in June of 2009 at a distance of 1.8 AU (270 million km), just outside the orbit of Mars. If it comes back near the Sun at all, it won't be for hundreds of thousands of years. Finally, below Garradd, is an orange streak. This is almost certainly a manmade satellite.

WISE sees invisible infrared light, and the colors here are mapped to three of the four wavelength bands observed by WISE. Blue represents light with a wavelength of 3.4 microns, cyan maps to 4.6 microns and red is light at 12 microns. The light from relatively hot objects, like stars in M3, is seen in blue and cyan. Red color represents cooler things, like dust from the comet and its tail. When this image was taken the WISE team was still calibrating the rate of the scan mirror with the motion of the WISE telescope. The rate was not yet perfected and careful examination of this image reveals some stars that are a little smeared and not exactly aligned in the blue/cyan with the red. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / WISE team >>
Art Neuendorffer

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Re: JPL: WISE Makes Progress on Its Space Rock Catalog

Post by neufer » Sat May 29, 2010 2:25 am

Image
So why are so many of the new near-Earth objects from WISE observed to be
immediately adjacent to earth's orbit as compared with the old near-Earth objects :?:

Are these Earth "Trojan asteroid" outliers that are normally hard to observe visually for some reason?
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JPL: WISE Mission to Complete Extensive Sky Survey

Post by bystander » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:03 pm

NASA's WISE Mission to Complete Extensive Sky Survey
NASA JPL WISE | 16 July 2010
NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, will complete its first survey of the entire sky on July 17, 2010. The mission has generated more than one million images so far, of everything from asteroids to distant galaxies.

"Like a globe-trotting shutterbug, WISE has completed a world tour with 1.3 million slides covering the whole sky," said Edward Wright, the principal investigator of the mission at the University of California, Los Angeles.
...
"The WISE all-sky survey is helping us sift through the immense and diverse population of celestial objects," said Hashima Hasan, WISE Program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It's a great example of the high impact science that's possible from NASA's Explorer Program."

WISE Eyes the Whole Sky (video) (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)
The first release of WISE data, covering about 80 percent of the sky, will be delivered to the astronomical community in May of next year. The mission scanned strips of the sky as it orbited around the Earth's poles since its launch last December. WISE always stays over the Earth's day-night line. As the Earth moves around the sun, new slices of sky come into the telescope's field of view. It has taken six months, or the amount of time for Earth to travel halfway around the sun, for the mission to complete one full scan of the entire sky.

For the next three months, the mission will map half of the sky again. This will enhance the telescope's data, revealing more hidden asteroids, stars and galaxies. The mapping will give astronomers a look at what's changed in the sky. The mission will end when the instrument's block of solid hydrogen coolant, needed to chill its infrared detectors, runs out.

"The eyes of WISE have not blinked since launch," said William Irace, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Both our telescope and spacecraft have performed flawlessly and have imaged every corner of our universe, just as we planned."

So far, WISE has observed more than 100,000 asteroids, both known and previously unseen. Most of these space rocks are in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. However, some are near-Earth objects, asteroids and comets with orbits that pass relatively close to Earth. WISE has discovered more than 90 of these new near-Earth objects. The infrared telescope is also good at spotting comets that orbit far from Earth and has discovered more than a dozen of these so far.

WISE's infrared vision also gives it a unique ability to pick up the glow of cool stars, called brown dwarfs, in addition to distant galaxies bursting with light and energy. These galaxies are called ultra-luminous infrared galaxies. WISE can see the brightest of them.

"WISE is filling in the blanks on the infrared properties of everything in the universe from nearby asteroids to distant quasars," said Peter Eisenhardt of JPL, project scientist for WISE. "But the most exciting discoveries may well be objects we haven't yet imagined exist."
WISE: The Pleiades: Seven Sisters Get WISE