An artist's concept of NASA's WISE/NEOWISE spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

What is WISE/NEOWISE?

NASA's WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) spacecraft was an infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope active from December 2009 to February 2011. In September 2013 the spacecraft was assigned a new mission as NEOWISE to help find near-Earth asteroids and comets.

  • NEOWISE hunts near-Earth objects from low-Earth orbit.
  • The spacecraft orbits Earth once every 95 minutes,15 times per day.

Nation United States of America (USA)
Objective(s) Low-Earth Orbit
Spacecraft WISE/NEOWISE
Spacecraft Mass 1,457 pounds (661 kilograms)
Mission Design and Management NASA / JPL
Launch Vehicle Delta 2
Launch Date and Time Dec. 14, 2009 | 14:09 UT
Launch Site Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (USA)
Scientific Instruments Cryogenic Telescope with Four Megapixel Infrared Cameras

Key Dates

Dec. 14, 2009: Launch

Jan. 2010 to Feb. 2011: Primary mission

February 2011: Spacecraft placed in hibernation

Sept. 2013-Present: NEOWISE operations ongoing

In Depth: WISE/NEOWISE

NASA's WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) spacecraft was successfully launched to near-Earth orbit December 14, 2009, to serve as an infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope.

WISE surveyed the full sky in four infrared wavelength bands (3.4, 4.6, 12 and 22 μm) until the frozen hydrogen cooling the telescope was depleted in September 2010.

The spacecraft was placed into hibernation in February 2011 after completing its search of the inner solar system.

In late 2013, the spacecraft was reactivated and assigned a new mission as NEOWISE to help NASA identify and characterize the population of near-Earth objects (NEOs). NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged into orbits that allow them to enter Earth's neighborhood.

Observations resumed in December 2013 and just six days later NEOWISE discovered its first potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid: 2013 YP139.

Potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) are asteroids that could one day threaten Earth. Near-Earth objects are classified as PHAs based on their size and how closely they can approach Earth's orbit.

As of mid-July 2019, NEOWISE was 24% of the way through its 12th coverage of the sky since reactivation. Over 830,000 infrared measurements have been made of 34,644 different solar system objects, including 1024 NEOs and 172 comets.

The Principal Investigator for NEOWISE is Amy Mainzer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

JPL manages and operates the NEOWISE mission for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Key Resources

The NEOWISE Project

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: WISE

UCLA WISE Website

Berkeley WISE Website

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