Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Word from the WISE (Mission)

I've been meaning to write something about NASA's WISE mission (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer), but I noticed today that two of my colleagues have beaten me to the punch, so I will steer you their way. On Kevin Thompson's Idle Diffractions blog, Mark Kahan recently wrote a guest post about WISE. In his post, Mark discusses the WISE first light image (the false color rendering shown above of the area around the star V482 Car, with blue, green, and red representing 3.4, 4.6, and 12 micron bands, respectively). He compares it to results for that patch of sky from earlier IR sky surveys with much lower resolution. WISE will be surveying the entire infrared sky at such resolution over the next few months (until its cryogenic hydrogen supply runs out, probably around October 2010). It will spot asteroids, brown dwarfs, distant galaxies, and much more.

If you're not that familiar with infrared radiation and how it works, the WISE web site has a great interactive feature explaining the basics of infrared and of the WISE mission itself. The narrator is Dr. Amy Mainzer (not Mila Kunis), the deputy project scientist for the WISE program. In the picture above I grabbed two frames from the segment in which she explains how IR is used to tell the temperature of things like stars, or in this case, tea cups. It's easy to tell what's hot and what's not.

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