New infrared map of the entire sky

WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) is a NASA satellite carrying a 40-cm telescope with an infrared camera. The satellite was launched in December 2009 and was decomissioned in February 2011.  The WISE survey ran for 6 months from 14 January 2010 until 17 July 2010.  The satellite was on a polar orbit, sweeping out a circle in the sky. As the Earth orbited around the Sun, after 6 months WISE was able to observe the entire sky.  WISE took a picture every 11 seconds, resulting in nearly 1.5 million images. Each image covered an area of the sky about three times larger than the full Moon. WISE operated at four wavelenths:  3.4, 4.6, 12 and 22 microns. Data taken by WISE was downloaded by radio transmission four times a day to computers on the ground which combined the images. WISE has produced an atlas of more than 18,000 images covering the entire celestial sphere, and a catalogue of more than 560 million individual objects.

The entire WISE sky. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

This week on March 14, the WISE team released an interactive all-sky mosaic along with the WISE All-Sky Data Release.  Most of the objects in WISE are stars and galaxies, many of which have never been seen before. WISE has brought us a series of new discoveries including the coolest class of stars (Y-dwarfs); the first known “Earth Trojan” asteroid to share the same orbital path around the Sun as Earth; and a surprising view of an infrared light echo surrounding a supernova.  More than 100 published papers to date have resulted from WISE and more discoveries are expected now that access to the entire catalogue is public.

For more information and to access the WISE dataset, see:

[Francesco Pignatale, Catarina Ubach & Sarah Maddison]

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