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NASA releases 1st images from WISE spacecraft

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[March 19, 2010]  PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- A glowing comet. A star-forming cloud. A new view of the Andromeda galaxy. A dense galaxy cluster.

NASA on Wednesday released the first images from its sky-mapping spacecraft, which captured a hodgepodge of cosmic targets two months after its launch on a mission to map the entire sky.

"We've got a candy store of images coming down from space," principal investigator Edward Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Since launching in December, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE for short, has sent back more than 250,000 raw images. NASA processed several of them for the public.

Orbiting some 325 miles above the Earth, WISE scans the sky in search of hard-to-see asteroids, comets, stars, galaxies and other celestial objects. One of its main tasks is to spot objects that may pose a danger to Earth.

Unlike optical telescopes, WISE is designed to detect objects that give off infrared light or heat.

The $320 million project is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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[Associated Press]

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