[meteorite-list] NASA's Asteroid-Hunting Spacecraft a Discovery Machine (NEOWISE)

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2017 16:26:16 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201707072326.v67NQGc4008018_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


NASA's Asteroid-Hunting Spacecraft a Discovery Machine
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
June 5, 2017

NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE)
mission has released its third year of survey data, with the spacecraft
discovering 97 previously unknown celestial objects in the last year.
Of those, 28 were near-Earth objects, 64 were main belt asteroids and
five were comets.

The spacecraft has now characterized a total of 693 near-Earth objects
since the mission was re-started in December 2013. Of these, 114 are new.
The NEOWISE team has released an animation depicting this solar system
survey's discoveries and characterizations for its third year of operations.

"NEOWISE is not only discovering previously uncharted asteroids and comets,
but it is providing excellent data on many of those already in our catalog,"
said Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It is also proving to be an invaluable
tool in in the refining and perfecting of techniques for near-Earth object
discovery and characterization by a space-based infrared observatory."

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged
by the gravitational attraction of the planets in our solar system into
orbits that allow them to enter Earth's neighborhood. Ten of the objects
discovered by NEOWISE in the past year have been classified as potentially
hazardous asteroids, based on their size and their orbits.

More than 2.6 million infrared images of the sky were collected in the
third year of operations by NEOWISE. These data are combined with the
Year 1 and 2 NEOWISE data into a single archive that contains approximately
7.7 million sets of images and a database of more than 57.7 billion source
detections extracted from those images.

The NEOWISE images also contain glimpses of rare objects, like comet C/2010
L5 WISE. A new technique of modeling comet behavior called tail-fitting
showed that this particular comet experienced a brief outburst as it swept
through the inner-solar system.

"Comets that have abrupt outbursts are not commonly found, but this may
be due more to the sudden nature of the activity rather than their inherent
rarity," said Emily Kramer, a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at JPL
and lead author of paper on the NEOWISE study. "It is great for astronomers
to view and collect cometary data when they find an outburst, but since
the activity is so short-lived, we may simply miss them most of the time."

The tail-fitting technique identifies the size and quantity of dust particles
in the vicinity of the comet, and when they were ejected from the comet's
nucleus, revealing the history of the comet's activity. With tail-fitting,
future all-sky surveys may be able to find and collect data on more cometary
outburst activity when it happens. A paper detailing the tail-fitting
technique and other results of the study was published in the March 20
volume of the Astrophysical Journal.

Originally called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the
spacecraft was launched in December 2009. It was placed in hibernation
in 2011 after its primary astrophysics 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 also is characterizing more distant populations
of asteroids and comets to provide information about their sizes and compositions.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the
NEOWISE mission for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office within
the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory
in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies
Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Science operations and
data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center
at Caltech in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

To review the latest data release from NEOWISE please visit:


For more information about NEOWISE, visit:




More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is at:


News Media Contact
DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle at jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov

Received on Fri 07 Jul 2017 07:26:16 PM PDT

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