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NASA: The Nerdiest Paparazzi

When NASA scientist Dr. Peter Eisenhardt said, "There are brown dwarfs all around us," he wasn't making a paranoid reference to Snow White. He was talking about a type of star that, until very recently, is often too faint to see. Brown dwarfs are also called "failed stars" because they lack the energy to ignite like normal stars during the birth process. And, much like the paparazzi, NASA can't get enough of failed stars. That's why they built the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, affectionately called WISE.

  • The image of the Heart and Soul nebulae in the constellation Cassiopeia covers an area of the sky over ten times as wide as the full moon and eight times as high. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) completed its first survey of the entire sky on July 17.
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    The image of the Heart and Soul nebulae in the constellation Cassiopeia covers an area of the sky over ten times as wide as the full moon and eight times as high. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) completed its first survey of the entire sky on July 17.
    NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
  • The WISE satellite was launched in 2009, and carried to space on United Launch Alliance's Delta II rocket.
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    The WISE satellite was launched in 2009, and carried to space on United Launch Alliance's Delta II rocket.
    United Launch Alliance/Bill Hartenstein, 2009
  • The mission was for WISE to scan the entire sky in infrared light, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing millions of images.
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    The mission was for WISE to scan the entire sky in infrared light, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing millions of images.
    United Launch Alliance/Bill Hartenstein, 2009
  • A dense cluster of galaxies called Fornax is 60 million light-years from Earth, and is one of the closest galaxy clusters to the Milky Way. WISE's large field of view and multi-wavelength infrared sight enabled this complete view of the cluster, containing dozens of bright galaxies and hundreds of smaller ones.
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    A dense cluster of galaxies called Fornax is 60 million light-years from Earth, and is one of the closest galaxy clusters to the Milky Way. WISE's large field of view and multi-wavelength infrared sight enabled this complete view of the cluster, containing dozens of bright galaxies and hundreds of smaller ones.
  • An exploding star appears red in this image captured by WISE, which snapped more than 1.3 million slides of the sky.
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    An exploding star appears red in this image captured by WISE, which snapped more than 1.3 million slides of the sky.
    NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
  • The Tarantula nebula is a giant star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. Color is representational: blue and cyan represent infrared light at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns.
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    The Tarantula nebula is a giant star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. Color is representational: blue and cyan represent infrared light at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns.
    NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
  • WISE illuminates several interesting objects in the constellation Cassiopeia, none of which are easily seen in visible light.
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    WISE illuminates several interesting objects in the constellation Cassiopeia, none of which are easily seen in visible light.
    NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
  • The mosaic of Pleiades, a star cluster, contains a few hundred image frames — just a fraction of the more than one million WISE has captured.
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    The mosaic of Pleiades, a star cluster, contains a few hundred image frames — just a fraction of the more than one million WISE has captured.
    NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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WISE, which launched last year, just completed the first-ever comprehensive infrared survey of the sky. In other words, its photographic mission has been both comprehensive and ground-breaking: With more than 1.3 million scans, it has surveyed the entire sky and illuminated galaxies and stars that have never been seen before. And it plans to keep going, without blinking, until its coolant runs out. In that sense, WISE puts Ron Gallela to shame.

Learn (and see!) more about the mission on NASA's site.

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