How would the sky look through infrared eyes? The scientists behind NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission have served up that kind of view with an all-sky map of infrared wavelengths, centered on the glowing Milky Way.
The map was unveiled this week to mark the completion of WISE's infrared sky atlas, more than two years after the $320 million mission was launched. The telescope collected more than 2.7 million images in four infrared wavelengths and sent down more than 15 trillion bytes of data. The WISE spacecraft was shut down a year ago, after surveying the entire sky one and a half times, but scientists needed still more time to analyze and organize the data.
The images were combined into an atlas of more than 18,000 images. The atlas is accompanied by a catalog listing the infrared properties of more than 560 million individual objects, ranging from near-Earth asteroids to far-flung galaxies. Wednesday's release of the catalog meets the fundamental objective of a mission that was conceived in 1998.