Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
NEOWISE (Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) was originally the WISE mission. The Ball-built WISE spacecraft was launched December 2009 to scan the entire celestial sky in infrared light.
WISE captured more than 2.7 million images in multiple infrared wavelengths and cataloging more than 747 million objects in space, ranging from distant galaxies to asteroids and comets much closer to Earth.
WISE discovered the first Y Dwarf and Earth trojan asteroid, tens of thousands of new asteroids, and numerous previously undiscovered star clusters. Most of WISE’s electronics were turned off by NASA when it completed its primary mission in February 2011. The mission was reactivated in 2013 for the NEOWISE mission.
In the first year of its reactivation, NEOWISE captured 2.5 million image sets, detecting and providing data on over 10,000 solar system objects. The data revealed 129 new solar system objects, including 39 previously undiscovered near-Earth objects. Each of the images also contains a multitude of background stars, nebulae and galaxies.
Currently in its second year of additional science collection, NEOWISE has already added another 21 new discoveries including six new near-Earth objects. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the NEOWISE mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The mission is currently funded through 2016.
The NEOWISE spacecraft is based on the versatile, space-proven Ball Aerospace BCP-300 spacecraft bus design. Under contract to JPL, Ball Aerospace designed, built, and tested the spacecraft and conducted flight system testing and support operations.
WISE captured this image of the immense Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or simply M31
This animation below, created by Ball, shows a schematic of NEOWISE’s orbit. NEOWISE always looks in the dawn and twilight skies – the direction perpendicular to a line between Earth and the sun. This unique vantage point makes it possible for NEOWISE to spot objects that approach Earth from the direction of the sun, unlike ground-based telescopes that are only able to view the night sky.