NEOWISE: Funded by NASA's Planetary Science Division, NEOWISE harvests measurements of asteroids
and comets from images collected by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft.
NEOWISE provides a rich archive for searching for solar system objects.
WISE was launched into a low-Earth orbit in December 2009, and surveyed the full sky in four
infrared wavelength bands (3.4, 4.6, 12 and 22 µm) with a 40 cm (16 in) diameter infrared telescope until the frozen hydrogen cooling the telescope was depleted in September 2010. Throughout
this time, NEOWISE searched the WISE data for moving objects. Starting in October 2010,
the mission was renamed NEOWISE, and the survey continued for an additional four months using the two
shortest wavelength detectors. The spacecraft was placed into hibernation in February 2011, after
completing its search of the inner solar system.
Recently, NEOWISE has been brought out of hibernation to learn more about the population of near-Earth
objects and comets that could pose an impact hazard to the Earth. A three-year survey in the 3.4
and 4.6 µm infrared bands began in December 2013 in which NEOWISE will rapidly characterize
near-Earth objects (NEOs) and obtain accurate measurements of their diameters and albedos
(how much light an object reflects). NEOWISE is equally sensitive to both light-colored asteroids
and the optically dark objects that are difficult for ground-based observers to discover and
characterize. Just six days after the restart of the survey, NEOWISE discovered its first
potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid, 2013 YP139.
In addition to the collection, processing, and release of data from the restarted flight mission,
NEOWISE is reprocessing survey data collected 2010-2011.
Throughout its history, NEOWISE has delivered physical data on an enormous number of minor planets,
and efforts are underway to mine even more out of the dataset. A list of NEO discoveries can be
Preliminary physical properties such as diameter and visible albedo have been computed
and published for nearly all detected objects, enabling a range of studies of the origins and evolution
of the small bodies in our solar system. NEOWISE data have been used to constrain the numbers,
sizes, and orbital elements of NEOs, including potentially hazardous asteroids, as well as the
Jovian Trojans, Hilda-group asteroids, and the physical properties and collisional history of
Main Belt asteroid families. Efforts were undertaken to perform detailed analysis of the small body
thermophysical properties, as well as the dust and gas properties of active bodies. Nucleus sizes
have been computed for most of the NEOWISE cometary samples in order to apply debiasing techniques
to extrapolate the sample to the population writ large.
Amy Mainzer is PI of NEOWISE.
More on the current status of the mission can be found on