I guess this is a Thursday? two-fer. This may not be the world’s most exciting space picture, but it happens to be one of space telescope WISE’s ‘first light’ images — the very first to be taken. Think of it as the telescope opening its “eyes”, as it were. It’s a significant moment, and I wanted to capture it here, while it’s fresh.
This infrared snapshot of a region in the constellation Carina near the Milky Way was taken shortly after NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) ejected its cover. The “first-light” picture shows thousands of stars and covers an area three times the size of the moon. WISE will take more than a million similar pictures covering the whole sky.
The image was captured as the spacecraft stared in a fixed direction, in order to help calibrate its pointing system. The mission’s survey will be done while the satellite continuously scans the sky, and an internal scan mirror counteracts the motion to create freeze-frame images. The team is working now to match the motions of the spacecraft and the scan mirror precisely.
This eight-second exposure shows infrared light from three of WISE’s four wavelength bands: Blue, green and red correspond to 3.4, 4.6, and 12 microns, respectively.