On December 9th, NASA will launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) aboard a Delta II rocket. WISE brings with it the most sensitive Infrared detection capability that has ever been used. Infrared detection will allow us to see objects which have very low amounts of visible light, and the WISE craft will survey the entire sky in IR over a six month time, which is something that has never been done before.
The craft houses a 16″ telescope with four IR cameras on board to survey the sky in four different IR wavelengths.
It is believed that WISE will uncover hundreds of thousands of asteroids (hundreds of them being Near Earth Objects), possibly hundreds of thousands of brown dwarf stars, some of the most luminous ancient galaxies, and with a little luck stars which have planetary discs around them.
Also, who knows what unexpected things will appear as we view the universe in a whole new way!
Follow the WISE mission at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/main/index.html
One of the more intriguing aspects of this mission, is that the craft must be kept super cooled so as to minimize its own IR emissions. If left at normal temperatures, it would be like shining a flashlight into the barrel of a telescope. Therefore, the craft is cooled by frozen hydrogen, which slowly evaporates away over a period of about 10 months.
This mission is going to be “cool”, and i for one am very excited about this NASA Science mission!