One of the main problems in observational astronomy is not the lack of powerful tools, but the lack of understanding of where it is best to look. There are many interesting events going on in the universe, but they are all like a needle in a haystack. Wide-field telescopes, which scan the entire sky in a short time, help to solve this problem. Such tools make it possible to create a real movie about the Universe in conditionally real time. And NASA showed such a film.
NASA today presented video about the operation of the WISE wide-field infrared telescope. The telescope was launched into Earth orbit on December 14, 2009. The device stitches together a snapshot of the entire starry sky in about six months. NASA scientists have published 18 complete maps of the starry sky as seen through the telescope, and are preparing to release the 19th and 20th maps in March 2023. A set of complete maps made it possible to create an 18-frame film about the changes taking place in the visible region of the Universe, which gives an idea of the processes of a truly universal scale.
Observations with the WISE Space Telescope make it possible to detect objects with variable brightness, which includes supernova explosions, and also make it possible to track the movement of objects in space, and not just on the plane of the sky. Such observations give a lot for understanding the behavior of black holes, which we can observe only from indirect data – from the trajectories of stars and signs of their tidal gravitational destruction.
The WISE mission to study objects outside the Solar System ended in 2011 when the onboard coolant needed for some infrared observations ran out, but the spacecraft and some of its infrared detectors were still operational. Therefore, in 2013, NASA repurposed the telescope to track asteroids and other near-Earth objects, giving it a new name – NEOWISE. A similar real-time task is performed today by terrestrial robotic telescopes at several tracking stations, but WISE boasts greater sensitivity, although it gives a much less frequently updated picture.
However, the astronomical instruments remaining on board NEOWISE allow the telescope to make complete sky maps, albeit with worse sensitivity, but sufficient to make new discoveries. “Photographs of the sky can show us cosmic wonders; movies can bring them to life,” according to NASA.
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