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NASA Space Science

NASA WISE Satellite Blasts Into Space 139

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hope-sean-enjoyed-it-anna dept.
coondoggie writes "After a three day delay, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer this morning blasted into space courtesy of a Delta II rocket and will soon begin bathing the cosmos with infrared light, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing millions of images. The space agency says the WISE spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months. The idea behind the spacecraft is to uncover objects never seen before, including the coolest stars, the universe's most luminous galaxies and some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids and comets."
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NASA WISE Satellite Blasts Into Space

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  • by For a Free Internet (1594621) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:25PM (#30432954)

    for the infrared flashbulb light to bounce back. Plus, won't this contribute to galactic warming? NASA under Barack Obama is clearly in league with the Italians who are out to destroy America's universe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Abreu (173023)

      Ah, so that's why someone was angry enough to go break Berlusconi's nose...

  • I am only interested in the coolest, most popular, stars.
  • Bathing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Garble Snarky (715674) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:31PM (#30433034)
    Is it really "bathing" the cosmos? Don't most orbiting observatories just have sensors, not emitters?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Entropy98 (1340659)

      Maybe they meant "and will soon begin bathing in the infrared light of the cosmos"

      • Re:Bathing? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:51PM (#30433276) Homepage

        Maybe they meant "and will soon begin bathing in the infrared light of the cosmos"

        Impossible! Nobody ever mistypes, and nobody ever means things in a non-literal fashion. Your explanation, while seemingly reasonable, fails to account for this!

        Clearly what they were referring to is the fact that the WISE observatory is neither at absolute zero, nor a perfect absorber of infrared. Ergo, WISE will both emit and reflect infrared light, which will subsequently bathe the cosmos. Obviously that's useless for the telescope's observations, but it's still true.

        Though "bathe" probably isn't the right choice of words either. Infrared light is not sufficient to get you clean. Just an FYI to my fellow slashdotters prior to any family gatherings they may be attending this holiday season. ;)

        • by radtea (464814)

          Nobody ever mistypes, and nobody ever means things in a non-literal fashion

          But people do craft egregiously wrong summaries to ensure that there is something to talk about in response to it. Without that we'd get nothing but misguided comments about how the poster has thought of a defect in the technology/idea/whatever that the people doing it have not, dull variants on standard joke templates, rants against the Obama/Bush administration or American foreign policy, etc.

        • by Abreu (173023)

          Calm down, Sheldon

        • Infrared light is not sufficient to get you clean.

          The same is true for a mud bath. (Which gets you dirty.)
          Or an acid bath. (Which gets you very very very clean. ;)
          But it’s still called a bath.

          • by marcus (1916)

            Typically a "bath" [google.com] is a complete immersion in a liquid. The result desired varies from chemical treatment to cleaning to coating. The idea is a complete, no exposed surface left untouched, coverage.

            • by charleste (537078)

              Ergo, a "mud bath" is incorrect. You are immersing yourself not in a liquid, but in a heterogeneous solution of dirt and liquid. Just sayin' - based on what you were saying. :-)

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Or an acid bath. (Which gets you very very very clean. ;)

            Bathing in baked beans [grayflannelsuit.net](strangely, safe for work) is said to be nutritious.

        • Infrared light is not sufficient to get you clean. Just an FYI to my fellow slashdotters prior to any family gatherings they may be attending this holiday season. ;)

          No, but it disinfects... that isn’t good enough?

          • No, but it disinfects... that isn't good enough?

            Infrared light disinfects? Well, yes, but only if you get the target surface hot enough to act like an autoclave. Most party goers wouldn't like that. Ultraviolet on the other hand, will disinfect, as it disrupts cellular activity. And unless you're using it in a closed area for disinfecting drinking or pool water, aforementioned party goers wouldn't like that much either. Disinfectants kill mostly unwanted living things.

            Musically however, I prefer ultraviolent and infradig.

        • by steelfood (895457)

          Infrared light is not sufficient to get you clean.

          In fact, it has the opposite effect.

        • by unitron (5733)

          Well, if you can sunbathe in UV, you can sunbathe in IR. Remember how much the old sunlamp and heatlamp bulbs looked alike?

          Besides, I, for one, am glad to see that our brave little satellite will be out there in the dark unknown, striving mightily to undo the cosmos's perfectly scandalous infrared light shortage.

    • Re:Bathing? (Score:4, Funny)

      by cream wobbly (1102689) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:43PM (#30433192)

      Evidently, it's a very subtle "Soviet Russia" joke.

    • In Soviet Russia, satellites create galaxies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by clone53421 (1310749)

      No. It is a passive device, as you suspect.

      However, TFS can’t be entirely blamed for this mistake. It was copied and pasted directly from TFS.

      Better article [nasa.gov] – from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Some interesting tibits:

      Because the instrument sees the infrared, or heat, signatures of objects, it must be kept at chilly temperatures. Its coldest detectors are less than minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit.

      "WISE needs to be colder than the objects it's observing," said Ned Wright of UCLA, the mission'

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Primary mission?

        What's its secondary mission?

        • The secondary mission is to rotate the lens toward Earth and take pictures of the terrorist camp at Bandar Abbas.

    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:27PM (#30433678)
      I skimmed the summary not even noticing the stupid "bathing" thing', and then guess what 99% of the comments here are about?

      Every time a summary has the tiniest little compiler error in it, no matter what it's about, any interest that might have been gleaned from TFA is lost. All you karma whores storm in like a Black Friday Walmart crowd trying to score your 5, Funny first posts and you fill up this board with this redundantly unfunny goofballing- "huh huh huh it's bathing the cosmos not the other way around huh huh huh"! My heart pains for any infrared astronomer out there drowning in this shit.
      • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:42PM (#30433878) Journal

        I skimmed the summary not even noticing the stupid "bathing" thing', and then guess what 99% of the comments here are about?

        Please hand in your geek card on your way out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rubycodez (864176)

        not error, misconception. Engineers and scientists hate those. Simplifying for a general audience while still educating is a grand thing, but care to be accurate still taken. So be glad we give a shit,

      • "Every time a summary has the tiniest little compiler error in it..."

        You do realize that you are addressing a large population of programmers, right?

        Its is their JOB to notice such "tiniest little compiler error(s)". If they don't, rockets end up underwater instead of in space, people end up dead, Microsoft makes billions and programmers lose jobs.

        You must be in marketing...or management.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:31PM (#30433036)

    I'm pretty sure we're talking passive sensors here, so it's not going to be "bathing the cosmos with infrared light" as much as it's going to be bathing in the infrared light of the cosmos. If scientists hadn't stopped writing in Latin, we wouldn't have these little word order screwups, now would we?

    But it's good it will be finding the coolest stars. Aside from giving us new insights into the age of the universe and stellar evolution, it'll give NASA something to boast about on Facebook.

    • Maybe the Greeks were right http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emission_theory_(vision) [wikipedia.org]

      • They got the mechanism wrong but the idea right that as we observe things the "eye rays" actually work to collapse the quantum wave form, thus by existing we are screwing up the universe!!!!

    • I'm pretty sure we're talking passive sensors here, so it's not going to be "bathing the cosmos with infrared light" as much as it's going to be bathing in the infrared light of the cosmos.

      Technically, it will retain residual heat from Earth, and as it emits that extremely weak infrared radiation, the universe will be eventually bathed in it. Now that reminds me of the time my family had a large pepperoni pizza with luscious ripe tomato sauce, delicious mozzarella cheese, and freshly made pepperoni that was so hot you could practically get a suntan just putting your face near it. (Temporarily filling in for PizzaAnalogyGuy.)

    • by Narpak (961733)
      I for one welcome images of our Great Old Overlords bathed in infra-red light!
  • by Grokmoo (1180039) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:32PM (#30433054)
    The summary says it will be "bathing the cosmos with infrared light". What is this supposed to mean? The spacecraft will be detecting light, but will not be emitting it in any substantial quantity. In fact, WISE will be emitting very little infrared light at all (even for a spacecraft), as it is being kept cool for the next 10 months or so with an onboard supply of solid hydrogen.
    • by argStyopa (232550)

      I staggered at that too, read it a few times before I realized it really DOESN'T make any sense.

      Moreover: "scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months" wha...? Why not just say "it will scan the sky in 6 months" (per TFA).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by clone53421 (1310749)

        "scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months" wha...? Why not just say "it will scan the sky in 6 months" (per TFA).

        Because it’ll scan the sky in 6 months, then scan about half of it again in 3 months before it runs out of the coolant needed to keep its sensors cold.

        In other words, it will scan the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          Because it'll scan the sky in 6 months, then scan about half of it again in 3 months before it runs out of the coolant needed to keep its sensors cold.

          -429 degrees Fahrenheit is about 17 Kelvin.
          Couldn't they just open the sensors up to vaccuum and keep it cool?

          • Vacuum isn’t cold – that’s a myth.

            Heat is lost by convection and radiation. In convection, the warm surface of the object heats the cooler fluid (gas or liquid) surrounding it; the warmed fluid can then be replaced by more of the cooler fluid (either by naturally occurring currents, or deliberately) and the process continues. Radiation, on the other hand, is the gradual release of energy in the form of photons from any surface that is above absolute zero.

            Convection is much more rapid than

          • Vacuum is a pretty good thermal insulator. And running electricity through detectors is a pretty good way to heat them up. Without many cold molecules around to hit those sensors they'll have a hard time dissipating that heat.

            So, no.

  • Seriously coondoggie, that's not how it works. This is an IR detector. Speed of light limitations, not to mention power requirements for umping enough IR into the sky to see any reflections, I mean... wow.

    • Hey... give him credit. He managed to copy and paste directly from TFA without making it any more wrong than it already was.

      Or maybe we should give the credit to CmdrTaco. It’s a hard call.

  • So how long till this thing is pointed downward?

    • by LBt1st (709520)

      My bad, I was stupid enough to think the summery was correct and that this would emit IR light.
      I was thinking it could see in the surface in the dark.

      • Actually, it's quite wintry outside even here in Arizona, so a little extra heat would be welcome.

      • by SBrach (1073190)
        FLIR does not emit IR and can "see in the dark."
      • A receiver this sensitive wouldn’t need an infrared emitter to see in the dark.

        Of course, once its hydrogen coolant runs out, it might not be sensitive enough anymore. Impossible to say, without having any technical details on the device.

        Another dilemma would be whether or not it can even focus on near objects.

  • um, I hope that isn't what it's supposed to do, because if it's an active IR system, it's gonna be waiting billions of years to get a return signal.
    I think what you mean is it'll be detecting the IR that is already out there.

  • ...will soon begin bathing the cosmos with infrared light...

    Uhm, yeah, I'm pretty sure that's not true ;-)

  • Wouldn't that scan complete one sky in 6 months? It's kind of strange to report that it will do 1.5 in 9.
    • I believe it's mission is to do 1.5 times though, no more no less, at this current juncture, so it's not strange to report it that way.

    • Re:Scan Rate (Score:5, Informative)

      by Snowblindeye (1085701) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:45PM (#30433214)

      Wouldn't that scan complete one sky in 6 months? It's kind of strange to report that it will do 1.5 in 9.

      It's because WISE has a limited life expentancy of 10 months. In that 10 months its expected to cover the whole sky 1.5 times.

      The life expentancy is only 10 months because the instrument needs to be cooled, which is done with solid hydrogen. Once the hydrogen is gone, the primary mission is over. Not sure if they have a plan for afterwards and can get secondary uses out of it.

      • by MiniMike (234881)

        Not sure if they have a plan for afterwards and can get secondary uses out of it.

        They should have set it on a path to impact something (moon, asteroid, deathstar,...) in 11+ months.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by glop (181086)

      The satellite only has enough cryogen to keep cool for 1.5 sky surveys. Hence the summary.
      I wonder if the satellite can still work without cryogen... I suppose it's going to be much noisier, but how much?

    • That's only true if the scanning rate is constant. Don't assume stuff because it makes an ass of you.

  • SETI Application? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:51PM (#30433272)
    I think it would be interesting to see if this thing picks up any sign of ETI... You could make the argument that initial communications for ETI might be in the infrared spectrum, as this is what is required to search for asteroids that might wipe out your home world. Any sufficiently intelligent species should have such an early warning system, indeed - you might see that as a necessary capability for an "intelligent" species.
    • Maybe we could see Dyson Sphere (Dyson Swarms) with this thing!

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Technical capabilities seem to be there, since Fermilab is apparently searching for appropriate, IR-heavy star signatures even in the data from WISE predecessor, IRAS, launched 25 years ago.

        WISE is supposed to be hundreds of times more sensitive.

    • by TimSSG (1068536)

      I say till we can find proof of TI we need not look for ETI.

      Tim S.

  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Monday December 14, 2009 @12:53PM (#30433296) Journal

    I wonder if this will find any stars closer to the earth that proxima centari?

    It would be interesting if it found a brown or red dwarf companion to our star which orbits out beyond the ort cloud. An Ion or VASIMIR powered probe to this star would be cool and feasible even if it were up to 1/2 a light year away.

    What would everyone think if we found out that our solar system is just another binary star system amonst the trillions and quadrillions of other multiple star systems out there....

     

    • What would everyone think if we found out that our solar system is just another binary star system amonst the trillions and quadrillions of other multiple star systems out there...

      The average person wouldn't give a gnat's fart, and most wouldn't have a clue what you are even talking about.

      • Yeah but kids will need a new Mnemonic device and the star will have to be named. Unless we just call it "Sol II".

        What sort of name would we call this new star, one idea would be to call it Apollo after the sun god who drove his chariot across the heaven during the day, but would that be appropriate for a star barely visible to the naked eye?

        And just imagine the flood of new disaster movies that could be made about this new stellar companion blowing up or being blowed up by aliens etc.....

        It would be a bi

    • by diablovision (83618) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:36PM (#30433806)

      Given that Pluto orbits at close to 1/1000th of a lightyear from the Sun (up to 7 billion km versus about 10 trillion km in a lightyear), I think if there were a companion star at 1/2 a lightyear, we'd probably have been able to infer its presence by its gravitational disturbance on the outermost planets' orbits. Also, most binary systems have very tight orbits between the companion stars--a binary system with 1/2 a lightyear distance might be even more unusual than a unary star system.

      I suppose it is possible the Sun has a companion out there, but seems very unlikely to me.

      • Not sure how far away a brown dwarf could be from the sun and yet still be gravitationally bound to it....

        Is there a limit to this?

        • You can conceptualize this by considering another star in the distance. Two adjacent gravity wells. Your BD is either
          1. In Sol's Well: moving slowly and close enough to be orbiting Sol
          2. In the Other Star's Well: Moving slowly and close enough to be orbiting the other star.
          3. moving too fast to be bound (over escape velocity) with either star and is careening past them both.

          You can picture a spot between two stars where the BD might teeter if it were standing still. It's not. Whereever that inflexion point i

        • by mbone (558574)

          Depends on where you are and your time horizon - you could be bound arbitrarily far away from the Sun in empty space, but in this galaxy, some star will eventually come by and disrupt your orbit if you are more that about 1 light year from the Sun.

      • by steelfood (895457)

        A star so close would be really, really bright. Jupiter is visible to the naked eye, about 1/10,000 of a light year away, and 1000 times smaller than the sun. A second sun about 1/2 of a light year away would be about 1/5 as bright as the sun. So a star so close by would probably be brighter than the full moon.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          Nope, brown dwarfs are really, really dim for a star. Your intuition cheats you here because majority of the stars you can see on the night sky are really bright; and Sun, Jupiter, are practically at our doorstep.

          Our failure to discover such a star is feasible enough that it is quite seriously considered: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_(star) [wikipedia.org] (and hey, there won't be any problems with picking a name ;) )

    • by sznupi (719324)

      From the wiki page about WISE, it seems it will be able to discover also gas giant planets in the Oort cloud.

      It would be most interesting if such body turned out to be rogue planet.

  • Submitted by one of their lackeys, or even worse, the author.

  • by Eevee (535658) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:19PM (#30433558)
    Instead of going to some half-assed article from networkworld, why aren't we linking to the actual NASA WISE [nasa.gov] site? Original sources, people. It's not that hard.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:36PM (#30433810) Journal

    I am a journalist, and I will not be denied the right to use "bathing the cosmos". It is, in my view, and elegant turn of phrase. Please do not bother me with all this science nonsense about sensors.

    Now excuse me, I have to get off to my 2nd job. It's not easy being a journalist these days. The paper could go belly-up any time. I moonlight writing advertising copy for real estate agents. There are tiny cabins that need to be described as "cozy", and houses needing tree work that need to be described as "nestled in the woods".

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:41PM (#30433876)
    A lot of this depends on how timely a given probe team makes the data available on the net. For example, earlier this year hobbyists measured out of ring plane bumps on Saturns rings during Saturn's vernal equinox. Then the rings were edge-on to the Sun and tiny out-of-plane excursions cast measurable shadows on the reset of the ring.

    A counter-example the Kepler project. They are NOT putting raw data on the web yet for the public to anyalyze. They probably have a private website somewhere with the data.
  • by fred fleenblat (463628) on Monday December 14, 2009 @01:52PM (#30433980) Homepage

    One of the most melancholy facts about astromony is that that while at this time and for the near future we have a civilization capable of supporting advanced orbital telescopes, the solar system is currently positioned pretty much in the center of glactic plane--safer from intergalactic bombardment by cosmic rays, but also our view is clouded by interference from so many local objects that we cannot see as much, or as far, or as far back, as would be if the solar system happened to be in the part of its phase where its orbit kind of bobs up or down out of the galactic plan for a few hundred thousand years.

    The next time we'll have a clear view will be about 17 million years from now. That's for the northern sky. Add another 35 million years to that before we get a clear view to the south. I hope we're still here by then.

    • VASIMIR powered asteroid sized colonies with IR telescopes launched in opposite directions parallel to the galactic axis.

      • Better: quantum-vacuum powered asteroid size colonies with IR telescopes launched in opposite directions parallel to the galactic axis.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by lennier (44736)

      "The next time we'll have a clear view will be about 17 million years from now."

      (adds to Blackberry calendar)

  • NASA UNWISE Satellite Blasts Into Earth.

    Comment: “I’m more of a down-to-earth kind of satellite.”

    More opposite news here on the opposite network. Stay tuned!

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