25,000 New Asteroids Uncovered By NASA's Sky Mapping (PHOTOS)
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LOS ANGELES -- Worried about Earth-threatening asteroids? One of NASA's newest space telescopes has spotted 25,000 never-before-seen asteroids in just six months. Ninety-five of those are considered "near Earth," but in the language of astronomy that means within 30 million miles. Luckily for us, none poses any threat to Earth anytime soon.
Called WISE for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, the telescope completes its first full scan of the sky on Saturday and then begins another round of imaging. What's special about WISE is its ability to see through impenetrable veils of dust, picking up the heat glow of objects that are invisible to regular telescopes.
Besides all those asteroids, WISE has also sighted 15 new comets. It has spied hundreds of potential brown dwarfs – stellar objects that are bigger than a planet but much smaller than a star – and confirmed the existence of 20 of them, including some of the coldest ever known.
The telescope also detected what's thought to be an ultraluminous galaxy, more than 10 billion light years away and formed from other colliding galaxies. Mission team members are elated with the discoveries of the $320 million project, which launched in December. By the end of the year, researchers expect to have a cosmic census of millions of newfound objects that should help answer questions about how planets, stars and galaxies form.
Story continued on next page. See images from NASA's WISE below.