Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A WISE View of the Universe

The logo on the left is the official NASA/JPL logo for the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer a new space telescope scheduled for launch in November of this year. WISE's mission "will provide a vast storehouse of knowledge about the solar system, the Milky Way, and the Universe. Among the objects WISE will study are asteroids, the coolest and dimmest stars, and the most luminous galaxies." According to Dr. Amy Mainzer, the WISE project's Deputy Project Scientist, "The Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE) mission, an infrared telescope launching in about a year, will observe hundreds of near-Earth asteroids, offering unique insights into this question. The risk posed by hazardous asteroids is critically dependent on how many there are of different sizes. We know that there are more small asteroids than large ones, but how many more, and what are they made of?" To learn more about WISE and Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) research you may click here.

There are several other key mission goals of the WISE project. To get and overview of those planned activites you may click here. One of these, is to "Enable a wide variety of studies ranging from the evolution of planetary debris discs to the history of star formation in normal galaxies,", can be important science in support of our search for Earth-like exoplanets. The better understanding we have of the process of both star formation and planet development will provide important data and understanding about the evolutionary process of solar system formation.