PASADENA, Calif. —A glowing comet. A star-forming cloud. A new view of the Andromeda galaxy. A dense galaxy cluster.
NASA on Wednesday released the first images from its sky-mapping spacecraft, which captured a hodgepodge of cosmic targets two months after its launch on a mission to map the entire sky.
"We've got a candy store of images coming down from space," principal investigator Edward Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement.
Since launching in December, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE for short, has sent back more than 250,000 raw images. NASA processed several of them for the public. The pictures are available at NASA.gov.
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Orbiting about 325 miles above the Earth, WISE scans the sky in search of hard-to-see asteroids, comets, stars, galaxies and other celestial objects. One of its main tasks is to spot objects that may pose a danger to Earth.
Unlike optical telescopes, WISE is designed to detect objects that give off infrared light or heat.
The $320 million project is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.