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NEOWISE: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)
NEOWISE: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a NASA infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope active from December 2009 to February 2011. It was launched on December 14, 2009, and decommissioned/hibernated on February 17, 2011 when its transmitter was turned off. It performed an all-sky astronomical survey with images in 3.4, 4.6, 12 and 22 μm wavelength range bands, over 10 months using a 40 cm (16 in) diameter infrared telescope in Earth-orbit. The initial mission length was limited by its hydrogen coolant, but a secondary post-cryogenic mission continued four more months with two of the four detectors remaining operational. In September 2013, NEOWISE was reactivated and the first discovery came on Dec. 29,2013 -- a near-Earth asteroid designated 2013 YP139.

The NEOWISE project has delivered physical data on an enormous number of minor planets and efforts are underway to mine even more out of the dataset. To date, the project has resulted in the detection of ~158,000 asteroids at thermal infrared wavelengths, including ~700 NEOs, and has discovered ~34,000 new asteroids, 135 of which are NEOs. The project has detected more than 155 comets, including 21 discoveries. Preliminary physical properties such as diameter and visible albedo have been computed and published for nearly all of these objects to date, enabling a range of studies of the origins and evolution of the small bodies in our solar system. So far, 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 nearly the entire NEOWISE cometary sample to date in order to apply debiasing techniques to extrapolate the sample to the population writ large.

NEOWISE future plans: The project is funded to complete five tasks by the end of FY2014: 1) Reprocess the Post-Cryogenic Survey data collected after the depletion of the mission's solid hydrogen to bring these data to the same level of calibration as the fully cryogenic dataset; 2) Optimize the WISE Moving Object Processing System (WMOPS) to enable extraction of moving objects at lower signal-to-noise levels and with fewer detections; 3) Deploy WMOPS on the entire NEOWISE dataset; 4) Perform stacking on the entire catalog of ~600,000 known minor planets to obtain detections of objects either too faint or with too few detections to have been found by WMOPS; 5) Compute physical properties for all objects detected in the NEOWISE data, either by stacking or with WMOPS, and deliver them to NASA's Planetary Data System.

Amy Mainzer leads the NEOWISE efforts.

For more information, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide-field_Infrared_Survey_Explorer

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