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NASA’s NEOWISE Asteroid-Hunting Probe to Return to Earth in 2025 Due to Space Weather

Photo from Google

NASA’s NEOWISE project, which has been hunting asteroids and comets for almost a decade, may end soon. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) predicts that solar activity will drag the space telescope out of orbit and into Earth’s atmosphere by 2025.

Photo from Google

NASA’s NEOWISE Mission Nears End as Solar Activity Drags Telescope Back to Earth

NEOWISE’s deputy main investigator, Joseph Masiero, said the mission was long-prepared for this. NEOWISE, an extension of WISE (“Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer”), was launched in December 2009 to scan the sky in infrared light.

In October 2010, WISE’s hydrogen coolant ran out, shutting down two detectors. After the telescope was reactivated for planetary defense, the near-Earth object-focused NEOWISE mission began in December 2013.

Despite its short lifespan, NEOWISE discovered 215 asteroids and comets, including C/2020 F3, visible to the naked eye in 2020. The rising portion of the sun’s 11-year cycle has increased solar activity, which now threatens the mission. The telescope is falling due to solar flares and coronal mass ejections heating and expanding Earth’s atmosphere. Due to orbital changes, NEOWISE may cease operations in 2025. Masiero stressed that NEOWISE is spiraling back toward Earth due to solar activity and a lack of orbital support.

READ ALSO: 8 ways to stop an asteroid: Nuclear weapons, paint and Bruce Willis

NEOWISE Mission Nearing End: Impact on Space Exploration

In 2010, the NEOWISE mission ran out of coolant and switched to near-Earth object detection. Reactivated in 2013, the mission hunted asteroids and comets for planetary defense data.

The impending end of NEOWISE illustrates space weather and long-term space mission restrictions. Throughout its operating phase, the mission has helped us understand celestial objects, particularly those with possible impact trajectories.

READ ALSO: Space weather will drag NASA’s NEOWISE asteroid-hunting probe back to Earth in 2025

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