JPL space telescope will get its 1st glimpse at the sky

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For the 1st time since NASA's Wide-field Infrared Satellite Explorer (WISE) blasted off 2 weeks ago, the space telescope will be getting its first glimpse of the sky.

The highly-sensitive infrared telescope aboard WISE is housed in a cryostat filled with solid hydrogen that works like a thermos. Until Tuesday, this thermos had a wrap that protected it from heat from the Earth and the sun until the satellite can be launched into orbit and get its bearings.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory-managed mission has to stay extremely cool - just a few degrees over absolute zero - so that it may observe the heat coming from dim objects that may otherwise fade into the darkness of space - similar to asteroids, brown dwarfs and distant ultraluminous galaxies.

But WISE isn't being on the clock just yet. It will take another 2 weeks to get the space telescope ready to start taking images of the sky. Once it begins scientists on the mission expect it to map the whole sky in 6 months – that is a breakneck pace in astronomical terms.

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