SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A telescope made by Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Lab for NASA is on track to complete its first sky survey. Launched into orbit in December, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer – or WISE – can see previously undetectable celestial objects using infrared sensors that can pick up dim light. So far, WISE has discovered 25,000 asteroids and produced 1.3 million images, including distant galaxies and brown dwarf stars, as well as 100,000 asteroids. The asteroids mainly occupy an area between Mars and Jupiter. About 90 of these space rocks travel “near” Earth, meaning roughly 30 million miles from the planet. “Every day is exciting,” the lab’s WISE Program Manager John Elwell said. “I’m proud that such a fundamental contribution to science comes out of Logan, Utah.” The first full scan of the sky – which Elwell said was expected to be complete on Saturday – has taken six months, or the amount of time for Earth to travel halfway around the sun. “The eyes of WISE have not blinked since launch,” said William Irace, the mission’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Both our telescope and spacecraft have performed flawlessly and have imaged every corner of our universe, just as we planned.” Over the next three months, WISE will map half of the sky again so astronomers can see what’s changed, Elwell said. The WISE project will end when the telescope’s block of solid hydrogen coolant, which is needed to chill the infrared detectors, runs out, probably in November.
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