October 28, 2022
NEOWISE, NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer, orbits the Sun once and takes photographs in all directions.
These photos build an "all-sky" map of hundreds of millions of objects' locations and brightness.
Astronomers can use each map individually, but viewing them as a time-lapse helps them understand the universe better.
NEOWISE was originally a data processing project to obtain asteroid detections and characteristics from WISE, a 2009 observatory that scanned the whole sky to discover and study objects outside our solar system.
Cool, close stars and some of the most bright galaxies emit infrared radiation.
After running out of coolant, the WISE mission ended in 2011, but the spacecraft and some of its infrared detectors were still working.
Brown dwarfs, a population of objects found throughout the galaxy, are studied using the catalog.
Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, a CatWISE-related project, enables citizen scientists to search NEOWISE data for moving objects that computers may have overlooked.
Maps found 60 more Y-dwarfs, the coolest brown dwarfs. Y-dwarfs may have a weirder formation and age story than warmer brown dwarfs.
NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office in Washington's Science Mission Directorate administers and operates the NEOWISE mission from Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.