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USU's space satellite nearly out of ‘gas'


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LOGAN -- A space telescope designed and built at Utah State University has spent nearly a year mapping the entire universe, but now it's finally run out of gas.

Or, more precisely, it's run out of ice.

Just in our near-Earth neighborhood, the Solar System, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or W.I.S.E. satellite, has discovered 33,000 new objects. That includes three comets and almost 500 previously unknown asteroids, 19 potentially threatening Earth.

As expected, the frozen hydrogen that keeps W.I.S.E. cold enough to shoot infrared pictures finally melted after nearly 10 months in orbit.

"Two of the four cameras no longer work because they're too warm, but the other two cameras will work as long as we have the funding to continue taking pictures," said John Elwell with USU Space Dynamics Laboratory. "It's been an extremely successful project from our point of view and from NASA's point of view. There's a whole generation of scientists that will -- their careers will be built around the data and discoveries that W.I.S.E. has made."

So far NASA has released only a few dozen images. Almost 2 million more are waiting for release.

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