Rebooted spacecraft discovers asteroid - Tucson News Now

Rebooted spacecraft discovers asteroid

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A NASA spacecraft that was recently brought out of hibernation has found a never-before-seen asteroid.

The spacecraft, named the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or NEOWISE, was reactivated with the purpose of identifying potentially hazardous objects approaching Earth.

This particular asteroid, designated 2013 YP139, was observed several times on Dec. 29, before it moved out of range. The observation was confirmed by University of Arizona researchers using the Spacewatch telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Amy Mainzer, the principle investigator of the mission, expressed her joy regarding the discovery at a press conference.

"We are delighted to get back to finding and characterizing asteroids and comets, especially those that come into Earth's neighborhood," Mainzer said.

The project, previously known as Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, WISE, was shut down in 2011 after completing its previous mission, during which it discovered more than 34,000 asteroids.

The project was revived in Sept. 2013 and given this new mission to detect dangerous objects.

Thankfully, NEOWISE was able to determine that this new asteroid is not a threat. Scientists calculate that the asteroid may get as close as 300,000 miles away from Earth, which is roughly the distance from Earth to the moon.

However, this will not occur for another century.

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