Thursday, February 18, 2010

Foremost images from Nasa's Wise infrared sky probe


NASA has published the foremost images from its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or Wise, which has been scanning the skies since January. Wise has worked beautifully, said the agency's Ed Weiler in Washington DC.

The images include a comet, a "star factory" 20,000 light years away in our Milky Way galaxy and our adjacent large neighbour, the Andromeda spiral galaxy. Wise will search on until October when its provisions of frozen coolant for chilling instruments will run out.

It's hoped it will find many more comets and, from them, give information about the birth of our Solar System. It's also appearing for asteroids and cool stars called brown dwarfs.

By the time the mission ends the explorer should have scanned the sky one-and-a-half-times with its "infrared goggles", enlightening objects not visible to the naked eye.

All these pictures tell a story concerning our dusty origins and destiny, said Peter Eisenhardt, Wise project director at Nasa in California.

Wise sees dirty comets and rocky asteroids tracing the configuration and evolution of our solar system. We can map thousands of forming and dying solar systems diagonally our entire galaxy.
We can see patterns of star formation across other galaxies, and waves of star-bursting galaxies in clusters millions of light years left, he explained.

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