Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer

Courtesy of NASA


Solar panels will provide WISE with the electricity it needs to operate, and will always point toward the Sun. Orbiting several hundred miles above the dividing line between night and day on Earth, the telescope will look out at right angles to the Sun and will always point away from Earth. As WISE orbits from the North Pole to the equator to the South Pole and then back up to the North Pole, the telescope will sweep out a circle in the sky. As the Earth moves around the Sun, this circle will move around the sky, and after six months WISE will have observed the whole sky in 1,500,000 pictures at one megapixel resolution at each of the four different wavelengths that range from 5 to 35 times longer than the longest waves the human eye can see.

December 14, 2009

Sun-synchronous polar in low Earth orbit with an orbit period of 95 minutes

End of Mission
February 17, 2011 (transmitter turned off, but could possibly be reactivated)


  • Image the entire sky in infrared.
  • Measure the diameters of more than 100,000 asteroids. See the infrared light absorbed and reemitted by dust, called Zodiacal Light, as well as the debris trails of comets.
  • Provide a complete inventory of nearby young stars and their dusty disks, as well as of the debris disks associated with planetary systems around thousands of older nearby stars.
  • Detect infrared light emitted by interstellar dust, producing very good maps of dust in the Galaxy.
  • Study the structures and star formation histories of thousands of nearby galaxies.
  • Discover brown dwarf stars, cooler and dimmer than the Sun, lacking the mass needed to fuse hydrogen into helium like visible stars do.

Discovered over 33,500 new asteroids and comets, and nearly 154,000 solar system objects were observed by WISE. Discovered an ultra-cool brown dwarf star that is about 10 to 30 ly away and the first Earth Trojan Asteroid.