NASA has just released a stunning new map of the heavens that catalogs over 560 million objects captured by the Wide-field Survey Explorer(WISE), NASA's infrared space telescope. Many of the objects were first discovered by WISE as scientists studied the 2.7 million images and 15 trillion bytes of data it generated.
The 2D map was ultimately created with 18,000 of the images pieced together as a mosaic. In this view with we see Milky Way Galaxy, shaped like a disk, running horizontally through the middle. Our solar system is located about two-thirds of the way out from the center of the disk.
The survey was able to capture so many new items in the sky because it used four infrared wavelengths that are able to see the dimmest items in the sky not visible to human eyes. Among the things the WISE survey discovered were:
Earth's "Trojan asteroid" —Trojan asteroids share the same orbit as a planet. Mars, Jupiter and Neptune all have them but Earth's was hidden for so long only being visible in the daylight when visible spectrum telescopes would have trouble identifying it.
Earth's Asteroid Survey — WISE was able to compile data on all the near-Earth asteroids that could potentially pose a threat. It showed there were fewer mid-sized asteroids than previously thought, and allowed scientists to plot where they could be found for future tracking.
Y Dwarf Stars — These are a special type of very faint failed stars that are considered cold, one registering as little as 80 degrees Farenheit when in comparison our sun is around 10,000 degrees Farenheit.
Considering that each of the 560 million objects identified could be a asteroids, stars or even entire galaxies there will no doubt be further discovery to come with additional scrutiny of the data.
The WISE team is looking forward to their data being explored by scientists and science lovers alike. Roc Cutri, who leads the WISE data processing and archiving effort at the Infrared and Processing Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasedena said in a press release:
"It will be exciting and rewarding to see the innovative ways the science and educational communities will use WISE in their studies now that they have the data at their fingertips."
Full documentation of the WISE survey is accessible online.