NASA Spacecraft Completes Asteroid, Comet Search
The NEOWISE mission from the space agency NASA has finished its comprehensive survey of asteroids, comets and small galactic bodies in Earths solar system. Objects that were previously unknown that were discovered by the mission include a belt of asteroids numbering more than 33,000 strong between Jupiter and Mars, 134 near Earth objects and 20 comets.
The near Earth objects, or NEOs, are comets and asteroids who orbit within a 28 million mile radius of our planets path circling the sun.
The original mission in this series was called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and was begun in December of 2009. The mission explored the celestial sky using infrared light and took over 2.7 pictures of space objects like comets, asteroids and even far off galaxies.
In the early part of October last year the spacecraft became depleted of the frozen coolant needed for its instrumentation after it had finished its main science mission. But two of the four infrared cameras installed in the spacecraft were still operating so NASA extended the mission and used them to go hunting for asteroids and comets and make another scan.
A spokesman from NASA said that the extra observations made by NEOWISE have increased significantly the store of data on small bodies in the solar system. Now that the mission is completed the spacecraft will go into a polar orbit around Earth and hibernate until it is needed to be used for future scientific missions in the solar system.