Monday, December 14, 2009

Infrared Telescope launches to study the Universe

images NASA/VAFB

A new NASA telescope with the ability to detect faint light from stars and other bodies in the universe departed earth this morning to begin a seven month mission to learn more about our celestrial neighbors.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 rocket lifted-off under a cloudy California sky this morning at 6:09:33 am PST (9:09 am EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying aloft NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope.

Powered by three solid rocket boosters and a core stage main engine, the Delta II launched into the predawn sky and into a southern trajectory out over the Pacific Ocean.

As the Delta raced to take WISE into polar orbit, it's three boosters emptied their propellant 64 seconds into the launch at an altitude of 9 nautical miles, and 35 seconds later were dropped from the sides of the rocket as it moved just over two times the speed of sound.

Following main stage separation and several second stage burns, the WISE spacecraft left the rocket to begin it's own journey of discovery as it raced over northwestern Madagascar at 7:04:53 am PST at a speed of Mach 22.3.

Once WISE is operational in a few weeks it will begin to conduct surveys of the earth's night. Using it's very sensitive infrared telescope, WISE will be able to detect faint light levels in the Universe such as brown dwarfs; luminous galaxies; and distant lights as WISE provides a astronomical road map for the soon to be launched James Webb space telescope.

1 comment:

michelle said...

We are driving to Titusville to watch the launch tomorrow morning. Is there a radio station we can listen to, so we can get the most current information? thanks

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