“WISE has worked superbly” says Ed Weiler, the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at the NASA Headquarters in Washington. Nearly a quarter of a million images have been returned since WISE’s scan of the entire sky began on January 14th, some from as far as the Fornax cluster, a cluster of galaxies 60 million light-years away.
WISE has also returned images from our neighboring galaxy, the Andromeda spiral galaxy, which is 2.5 million light-years away. The images reveal other smaller galaxies close to Andromeda which belong to a “local group” of more than 50 galaxies, including our own. WISE is expected to capture images of the entire group.
The purpose of the WISE telescope is to gather information which scientists will use to figure out the great mysteries of the universe. For instance, images returned from star-making regions in our Milky Way galaxy such as NGC 3603, a choppy star-forming region 20,000 light-years away, will help astronomers “piece together a picture of how stars are born.”
"All these pictures tell a story about our dusty origins and destiny," explains Peter Eisenhardt, the WISE project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "WISE sees dusty comets and rocky asteroids tracing the formation and evolution of our solar system. We can map thousands of forming and dying solar systems across our entire galaxy. We can see patterns of star formation across other galaxies, and waves of star-bursting galaxies in clusters millions of light years away."
WISE’s image gathering mission is a precursor to WISE’s secondary mission of tracking asteroids, comets and other stellar objects. This “will be just as critically important as its primary mission of surveying the entire sky in infrared,” says Weiler.
For more information on WISE, visit www.nasa.gov/wise.