[meteorite-list] NEOWISE Spies Its First Comet

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2014 16:06:09 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <201403010006.s21069Aa020266_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


NEOWISE Spies Its First Comet
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
February 28, 2014

NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE)
spacecraft has spotted a never-before-seen comet -- its first such discovery
since coming out of hibernation late last year.

"We are so pleased to have discovered this frozen visitor from the outermost
reaches of our solar system," said Amy Mainzer, the mission's principal
investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
"This comet is a weirdo - it is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it
orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets."

Officially named "C/2014 C3 (NEOWISE)", the first comet discovery of the
renewed mission came on Feb. 14 when the comet was about 143 million miles
(230 million kilometers) from Earth. Although the comet's orbit is still
a bit uncertain, it appears to have arrived from its most distant point
in the region of the outer planets. The mission's sophisticated software
picked out the moving object against a background of stationary stars.
As NEOWISE circled Earth, scanning the sky, it observed the comet six
times over half a day before the object moved out of its view. The discovery
was confirmed by the Minor Planet Center, Cambridge, Mass., when follow-up
observations were received three days later from the Near Earth Object
Observation project Spacewatch, Tucson, Ariz. Other follow-up observations
were then quickly received. While this is the first comet NEOWISE has
discovered since coming out of hibernation, the spacecraft is credited
with the discovery of 21 other comets during its primary mission.

Originally called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the
spacecraft was shut down in 2011 after its primary mission was completed.
In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a
new mission to assist NASA's efforts to identify the population of potentially
hazardous near-Earth objects. NEOWISE will also characterize previously
known asteroids and comets to better understand their sizes and compositions.

JPL manages the NEOWISE mission 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.

More information on NEOWISE is online at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/wise/

DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Fri 28 Feb 2014 07:06:09 PM PST

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