[UPDATE: As of 8:10 a.m. Mountain time (15:10 GMT) the launch went well, and WISE is now orbiting the Earth. There will be some engineering checkouts over the next few hours, but everything looks good! Congrats to the WISE team!]
If all goes according to plan, a Delta II rocket will thunder into the California sky at 9:09 a.m. EST (14:09 GMT) Monday, carrying the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) into orbit.
WISE is an amazing instrument. It will survey the entire sky in the
far mid infrared, with much better resolution than ever before. It is expected to detect hundreds of millions of objects, including galaxies, faint, cool stars, asteroids in our solar system, and much more. Amy Mainzer, Deputy Project Scientist for WISE, is in a video that explains what it’ll do (sorry, the embedding didn’t work, but click through and watch it).
WISE is a precursor mission to the James Webb Space Telescope, a huge infrared observatory that will be to the mid infrared sky what Hubble is to the visible, near IR, and near UV. Surveying the entire sky will enable astronomers to make quite the wish list for JWST once it’s up and running in 2014.
I’m looking forward to seeing what WISE can do; the images alone should be jaw-droppingly beautiful, and of course the science will be great. You can watch the launch live on NASA TV, too.
Image credit: NASA/VAFB