Asteroid: NASA's Reactivated Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) Spots 'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | January 9, 2014 11:58 AM EST

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reactivated the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) that became less active after completing its primary mission of scanning the skies for asteroids. The latest reports on the spacecraft claim that it has spotted a "potentially hazardous" asteroid at a distance of 43 million kilometers from planet Earth.

"We are delighted to get back to finding and characterising asteroids and comets, especially those that come into Earth's neighbourhood," Amy Mainzer, the space mission's principal investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, stated in the Telegraph report.

Ms Mainzer further added that the sizes and reflectiveness of the asteroids and comets can be studied with the infrared sensors capable of detecting heat, and that the spacecraft is still in outstanding condition. "The new images look just as good as they were before hibernation," Amy Manzier confirmed last December 2013 after NEOWISE came out of hibernation.

The discovered near-Earth asteroid has been designated as 2013 YP139 last December 29 after the space hunting equipment noticed the space object moving against the stationary stars. The space rock is estimated to be 0.4 miles in diameter with the infrared signature suggesting it is extremely dark comparable to a piece of coal.

The NDTV reports 2013 YP139 asteroid has been classified as a potentially hazardous near-Earth object because it encircles the Sun in an elliptical orbit slanted to the plane of the solar system. The role of NEOWISE is to provide assistance with NASA's efforts of identifying the potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs) like the 2013 YP139 asteroid.

NASA thinks "worldwide effects" could be felt with the impact of any asteroid bigger than half-mile diameter. The spacecraft will be helping as well in characterising the asteroids detected in the past that could now be considered as potential targets for upcoming space exploration missions.

The NEOWISE observations will be sent to the clearing house for solar system bodies in order to find out the orbit of each asteroid and comet if the space object is not identified. Lindley Johnson, the executive of NASA's NEOWISE program in Washington, recognized the importance of the NEOWISE in enhancing the ability to support the space agency's initiative.

The executive stated in the Red Orbit report: "It is important that we accumulate as much of this type of data as possible while the spacecraft remains a viable asset."

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