The NEOWISE mission hunts for near-Earth objects (NEOs) using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. Funded by NASA’s NEO Observations Program, the NEOWISE mission uses images taken by the spacecraft to look for asteroids and comets, providing a rich source of measurements of solar system objects at infrared wavelengths. These measurements include wavelengths that are difficult or impossible to detect directly from the ground.
NEOWISE is one of 54 ongoing projects supported by the NEO Observations Program in fiscal year 2015. NASA-funded survey projects have found 98 percent of the known catalogue of more than 13,000 NEOs. NASA-funded surveys are currently finding NEOs at a rate of about 1,500 per year.
The NEOWISE mission uses a repurposed NASA spacecraft to find and characterize asteroids. Launched in December 2009, WISE was tasked with documenting in infrared light some of the most remote objects in not only our galaxy, but our universe. Less than two years later, WISE had done just that, scanning the entire sky not once, but twice. From galaxies, to stars, to black holes, WISE collected data on over 750 million celestial targets of interest. With its mission a complete success after a year of operations, WISE was put into hibernation. In December 2014, the space telescope was revived with an updated mission and a new name. Its job was to find and collect the infrared signatures on some of our closest celestial neighbors – asteroids, comets and near-Earth objects. Now led by Principal Investigator Amy Mainzer of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the mission was named Near-Earth Object WISE, or NEOWISE. … (NASA)