Tuesday, December 15, 2009
A perfect launch! Considering the launch vehicle there was little reason to be worried in the first place, and everything went without a single hitch. Here's a video of the launch.
To see the details of the launch and final separation (which happened just about twenty minutes ago), see here. Now all we have to do is wait about a month for calibration and preparation, and then the nine-month mission will begin. Since this telescope is not looking for objects in the same way Kepler is (by having to observe them three times before confirming a discovery), we can expect to see some discoveries announced very soon in comparison.
Wikipedia has a nice summary of the types of objects WISE will be able to detect and where:
WISE will not be able to detect Kuiper belt objects, as their temperature is too low. It will be able to detect any objects with an internal heat source: a Neptune-sized object would be detectable out to 700 AU, a Jupiter-mass object out to one lightyear (63,000 AU), where it would still be within the Sun's zone of gravitational control. A small brown dwarf of 2-3 Jupiter masses would be visible at a distance of up to two to three parsecs (6 - 10 light years).