USU-built telescopes captures amazing views of the universe

Published: Friday, March 16 2012 5:21 p.m. MDT

Oldest recorded supernova, RCW 86, first documented by the Chinese in 185 A.D.

, NASA

LOGAN — NASA released some amazing images of deep space Thursday captured by the WISE telescope that was built at Utah State University.

In all, the WISE telescope, which stands for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, captured millions of images, and NASA has released 18,000 of them. Basically, it scanned the entire sky in infrared instead of normal light.

"We're darn proud of it," said John Elwell, manager of the program that brought the telescope to life, calling the mission a huge success. "Its primary purpose was to provide the infrared catalog of the whole sky for the benefit of astrophysicists to study the origins of our universe."

The breathtaking images prove once again that earth is a tiny part of the universe when compared to everything else out in space.

WISE was launched in 2009 to scan the sky. Scientists wanted to see what things looked like using infrared. "Asteroids are much brighter in infrared light than they are in visible light," Elwell said.

In addition to asteroids, a comet was found flying between Jupiter and Mars and the Andromeda galaxy, earth's closest neighboring galaxy, was seen some 2.5 million light years from the Milky Way.

The images show a thin bright band of blue light breaks the universe in two. Zoom in a little closer and the mysteries explode onto the black canvas like fireworks — big blue stars, some of the oldest in space, surrounded by spunky newborns with their hot red eyes flying in clusters.

WISE peered into the guts of constellations, like the head of Orion the hunter, his shoulder glowing a brilliant blue and a flame shooting through his belt.

WISE captured shooting stars, one screaming so fast that if it were a car, it would take just one second to drive from San Francisco to New York.

There's the wreath galaxy, named because of its red and green color, and a better photo of RCW 86, which is the oldest recorded supernova first documented by the Chinese in 185 A.D.

"Darn proud that little old USU in northern Utah has built an instrument that literally will impact astrophysicists for decades to come," Elwell said.

It took WISE 13 months to get all those photos and more are being processed.

The images released can be viewed by going to wise.ssl.berkeley.edu/gallery_thesky.html.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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