Thursday, August 16, 2018

NASA Honors Aretha Franklin

Asteroid Named for The Queen of Soul
NASA Statement: "We’re saddened by the loss of Aretha Franklin (1942-2018). Asteroid 249516 Aretha, found by our NEOWISE mission and named after the singer to commemorate the Queen of Soul, will keep orbiting beyond Mars."

The Principal Investigator for NEOWISE is Amy Mainzer of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). JPL manages NEOWISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, and carries out mission operations. The Space Dynamics Laboratory, Utah State University provided the science instrument. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. built the spacecraft. Science operations, data processing and archiving take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology.

NEOWISE: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a NASA infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope active from December 2009 to February 2011. It was launched on December 14, 2009, and decommissioned/hibernated on February 17, 2011 when its transmitter was turned off. It performed an all-sky astronomical survey with images in 3.4, 4.6, 12 and 22 μm wavelength range bands, over 10 months using a 40 cm (16 in) diameter infrared telescope in Earth-orbit. The initial mission length was limited by its hydrogen coolant, but a secondary post-cryogenic mission continued four more months with two of the four detectors remaining operational.

The NEOWISE project has delivered physical data on an enormous number of minor planets and efforts are underway to mine even more out of the dataset. To date, the project has resulted in the detection of ~158,000 asteroids at thermal infrared wavelengths, including ~700 NEOs, and has discovered ~34,000 new asteroids, 135 of which are NEOs. The project has detected more than 155 comets, including 21 discoveries. Preliminary physical properties such as diameter and visible albedo have been computed and published for nearly all of these objects to date, enabling a range of studies of the origins and evolution of the small bodies in our solar system. So far, NEOWISE data have been used to constrain the numbers, sizes, and orbital elements of NEOs, including potentially hazardous asteroids, as well as the Jovian Trojans, Hilda-group asteroids, and the physical properties and collisional history of Main Belt asteroid families. Efforts were undertaken to perform detailed analysis of the small body thermophysical properties, as well as the dust and gas properties of active bodies. Nucleus sizes have been computed for nearly the entire NEOWISE cometary sample to date in order to apply debiasing techniques to extrapolate the sample to the population writ large.

For more about NEOWISE, visit and

Credit: NASA
Release Date: August 16, 2018

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