WISE Discovers Its First Near-Earth Asteroid

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope has spotted its first never-before-seen near-Earth asteroid, the U.S. space agency said Jan. 25.

The asteroid, designated 2010 AB78, was discovered Jan. 12. It is currently about 158 million kilometers from Earth and is estimated to be roughly 1 kilometer in diameter. NASA said the asteroid does not pose any foreseeable impact threat to Earth but will continue to be monitored.

NASA expects WISE to discover hundreds of near-Earth asteroids during the telescope’s mission to map the whole sky in infrared light. The spacecraft, built by Boulder, Colo.-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies to accommodate a 40-centimeter telescope build by Logan, Utah-based Space Dynamics Laboratory, is designed to operate 10 months before its two-stage solid hydrogen cryostat is no longer able to keep the WISE optics and detectors cold enough for infrared observations.

The spacecraft was launched Dec. 14 aboard a Delta 2 rocket.