[meteorite-list] NEOWISE Spacecraft Returns First Images after Reactivation

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2013 12:23:46 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <201312192023.rBJKNkbU023447_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

December 19, 2013

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle at jpl.nasa.gov
RELEASE 13-377
NASA's Asteroid Hunter Spacecraft Returns First Images after Reactivation

Probe Will Assist Agency in Search for Candidates to Explore

NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), a
spacecraft that made the most comprehensive survey to date of asteroids and
comets, has returned its first set of test images in preparation for a
renewed mission.

NEOWISE discovered more than 34,000 asteroids and characterized 158,000
throughout the solar system during its prime mission in 2010 and early 2011.
It was reactivated in September following 31 months in hibernation to assist
NASA's efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth
objects (NEOs). NEOWISE also can assist in characterizing previously detected
asteroids that could be considered potential targets for future exploration

"NEOWISE not only gives us a better understanding of the asteroids and comets
we study directly, but it will help us refine our concepts and mission
operation plans for future, space-based near-Earth object cataloging
missions," said Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "The spacecraft is in
excellent health, and the new images look just as good as they were before
hibernation. Over the next weeks and months we will be gearing up our
ground-based data processing and expect to get back into the asteroid hunting
business, and acquire our first previously undiscovered space rock, in the
next few months."

Some of the deep space images taken by the spacecraft include a previously
detected asteroid named (872) Holda. With a diameter of 26 miles (42
kilometers), this asteroid orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter in a
region astronomers call the asteroid belt. The images tell researchers the
quality of the spacecraft's observations is the same as during its primary

The spacecraft uses a 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope and infrared cameras
to seek out and discover unknown NEOs and characterize their size, albedo or
reflectivity, and thermal properties. Asteroids reflect, but do not emit
visible light, so data collected with optical telescopes using visible light
can be deceiving.??

Infrared sensors, similar to the cameras on NEOWISE, are a powerful tool for
discovering, cataloging and understanding the asteroid population. Some of
the objects about which NEOWISE will be collecting data could become
candidates for the agency's announced asteroid initiative.

NASA's initiative will be the first mission to identify, capture and relocate
an asteroid. It represents an unprecedented technological feat that will lead
to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities that will help
protect our home planet. The asteroid initiative brings together the best of
NASA's science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve President
Obama's goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025.

"It is important that we accumulate as much of this type of data as possible
while the spacecraft remains a viable asset," said Lindley Johnson, NASA's
NEOWISE program executive in Washington. "NEOWISE is an important element to
enhance our ability to support the initiative."

NEOWISE began as WISE. The prime mission, which was launched in December
2009, was to scan the entire celestial sky in infrared light. WISE captured
more than 2.7 million images in multiple infrared wavelengths and cataloged
more than 747 million objects in space, ranging from galaxies faraway to
asteroids and comets much closer to Earth. NASA turned off most of WISE's
electronics when it completed its primary mission in February 2011.

Upon reactivation, the spacecraft was renamed NEOWISE with the goal of
discovering and characterizing asteroids and comets whose orbits approach
within 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) from Earth's path around the

JPL manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., built the spacecraft.
Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing
and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Some of the first images taken during the spacecraft's checkout period are
available at:


More information about NEOWISE is available online at:


For more information on the asteroid initiative, visit:


Received on Thu 19 Dec 2013 03:23:46 PM PST

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