Our Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE-R) has finished the first year of its reactivated mission and has observed more than 10,000 asteroids. The data include 245 near-Earth objects (NEOs), of which 40 were new discoveries. In addition the data contained 35 comets, of which 3 were new discoveries. One of the comets observed has turned into the brightest comet in our night sky in early 2015, comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy).
NEOWISE always looks in the dawn and twilight skies – the direction perpendicular to a line between Earth and the Sun. This unique vantage point makes NEOWISE a particularly efficient at spotting the Potential Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), a subset of the near-Earth Objects that may present a hazard to our planet.
The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) was an astrophysics mission launched in late 2009 and subsequently place into hibernation in early 2011 after its primary mission was completed. In late 2013 the satellite was reactivated and embarked on a new mission to assist NASA’s efforts to discover and track the population of PHAs, under a new mission name of NEOWISE-R. The data collected allows us to provide information about the sizes and composition of the objects observed.