NEOWISE: the announced farewellNEOWISE: the announced farewell https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/22223634/NEOWISE-the-announced-farewell-.png 512 424 Asteroid Day https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/22223634/NEOWISE-the-announced-farewell-.png
The NEOWISE infrared space telescope, which was announced to reach the end of its mission by NASA last December, has made remarkable contributions over the past 10 years in the detection of near-Earth comets and asteroids. However, due to anticipated high solar activity, it is expected that the telescope will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere by 2025.
The Sun is known to have a cycle of activity that spans approximately 11 years. During this cycle, its activity gradually increases until it reaches a peak known as the solar maximum, after which it gradually declines.
The current solar cycle initiated in December 2019 and is projected to reach its climax in 2024. With the rise in solar activity, occurrences of explosive events like solar flares and coronal mass ejections become more frequent, resulting in the heating of our planet’s atmosphere and subsequent expansion. Due to the presence of atmospheric gases, the drag experienced by satellites in orbit is heightened, resulting in reduced speed. Consequently, NEOWISE will be unable to sustain its orbital position above the Earth’s atmosphere.
The mission using this telescope began as WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer), was launched in December 2009. During its initial stage, WISE conducted a comprehensive survey of the sky using an infrared band that ground-based telescopes are unable to access due to atmospheric limitations. WISE has successfully identified a multitude of far-reaching stars and galaxies, active supermassive black holes, and contributed to our comprehension of a distinct group of stars known as brown dwarfs.
In 2011, WISE unfortunately faced a shortage of the cryogenic refrigerant required to maintain the sensitivity of its cameras to longer infrared wavelengths. As a result, it was placed into hibernation mode. However, in late 2013, the telescope was reactivated under the name NEOWISE (“Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer”), with the primary goal of conducting an extensive sky scan in search of near-Earth objects.
With this extension,the telescope was able to discover over 200 of these fascinating objects, including 25 comets. The telescope conducted comprehensive scans of the entire sky more than 20 times, and obtained valuable infrared measurements of over 44,000 objects within our solar system. It also provided crucial data on more than 3,000 near-Earth objects, aiding in refining their orbits and accurately determining their sizes. The valuable data played a crucial role in enhacing our understanding of the orbits and dimensions of these objects, greatly contributing to planetary defense endeavors.
These efforts will not conclude with the end of NEOWISE. Scheduled to be launched in 2027, the NEO Surveyor will continue its work, monitoring the sky for asteroids from the L1 Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system (its orbit would be between the Earth and the Sun). This strategic position will provide us with the ability to detect asteroids that approach our planet from within Earth’s orbit.
If you want to learn more about this topic, we recommend visiting the following websites::
WISE/NEOWISE mission website
NEO Surveyor mission website
LEARN – What are Near Earth Asteroids (NEA)?
LEARN – What are Potentially Hazardous Asteroids?