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Cosmic Diary

You May Ask Yourself, How Do I Work This?

18 Dec 2009, 08:04 UTC
You May Ask Yourself, How Do I Work This?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

It’s day 3 of our mission, and we’re in the process of waking up our spacecraft.
The last few days have been a blur of activity, and we’re getting ready for an important step: powering on the WISE payload.
The payload is essentially an 800 lb digital camera, with four megapixel detector arrays. The arrays are similar to the ones you have in your own digital camera, with the major exception that instead of sensing visible light (like what your eyes see), they see infrared light instead. In our case, each of the four detectors is sensitive to a different infrared wavelength, ranging from 5 to 33 times longer than the light your eye senses. It’s much redder than the reddest light you can see. But we launch WISE with a protective cover over the telescope, like a beefier version of the lens cap on your camera. So when we first turn on the WISE camera, we’ll be taking pictures of the inside of the cover. We won’t be ready to pop the cover off for a couple of weeks yet. We have to keep it on for at least a week because we have to wait for the spacecraft ...

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