NASA’s NEOWISE Asteroid-Hunter Spacecraft Releases Fourth Years of Survey Data


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its fourth year of survey data. Since the mission was restarted in December 2013, after a period of hibernation, the asteroid- and comet-hunter has completely scanned the skies nearly eight times and has observed and characterized 29,375 objects in four years of operations. This total includes 788 near-Earth objects and 136 comets since the mission restart.

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of the planets in our solar system into orbits that allow them to enter Earth’s neighborhood. Ten of the objects discovered by NEOWISE in the past year have been classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs). Near-Earth objects are classified as PHAs, based on their size and how closely they can approach Earth’s orbit.

“NEOWISE continues to expand our catalog and knowledge of these elusive and important objects,” said Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “In total, NEOWISE has now characterized sizes and reflectivities of over 1,300 near-Earth objects since the spacecraft was launched, offering an invaluable resource for understanding the physical properties of this population, and studying what they are made of and where they have come from.”

The NEOWISE team has released an animation depicting detections made by the telescope over its four years of surveying the solar system.

More than 2.5 million infrared images of the sky were collected in the fourth year of operations by NEOWISE. These data are combined with the year one through three NEOWISE data into a single publicly available archive. That archive contains approximately 10.3 million sets of images and a database of more than 76 billion source detections extracted from those images.

Originally called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the spacecraft launched in December 2009. It was placed in hibernation in 2011 after its primary astrophysics mission was completed. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission: to assist NASA’s efforts to identify and characterize the population of near-Earth objects. NEOWISE also is characterizing more distant populations of asteroids and comets to provide information about their sizes and compositions.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages and operates the NEOWISE mission for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Science data processing takes place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

To review the latest data release from NEOWISE, please visit:

For more information about NEOWISE, visit: 

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is at:

To learn more about NASA’s efforts for Planetary Defense see:

  • P.K. Sink

    This…and sep advancements…have got to be the most useful results from the ARM boondoggle .

  • passinglurker

    Aside from the heresy of justifying sls how is ARM a boondoggle again?

  • P.K. Sink

    Remember…ARM started out as a program to send astronauts to an asteroid as a shakedown for a Mars trip. Then it morphed into bringing the asteroid to the astronauts in cislunar space. Then it morphed into bringing a chunk of an asteroid to cislunar space. At that point it became a bad joke. Though I will happily concede that prospective asteroid miners might have benefited from the exercise.

  • passinglurker

    I don’t see the problem here. It was never practical to skip off straight to a NEA with no intermediary nor was it practical to detect a free floating asteroid small enough to bring back via tug. Bouldering pinching was ultimately the only practical near term option. Then after the boulder pinch sending people into deep space to visit an asteroid in person would be the perfect followup after you scale up the technologies developed for ARM.

    Even better once the ARM tug would have been launched it would have broken up our space program’s achievement milestones into nice 4 year chunks (boulder visit, asteroid visit, mars/martian moons visit, martian moon landing, mars landing, etc) to better survive a change of administration that would otherwise upend everything because results are more than 8 years away

  • P.K. Sink

    Sounds like a better plan than the Obama Administration ever came up with. But it’s not Trump’s plan…or China’s…or Russia’s…or ESA’s…or JAXA’s…or Elon’s. Maybe Bezos will give it a go. You might try mentioning it to him.

  • passinglurker

    No you clearly didn’t read any proposals or studies nasa put out during that period. ARM leading to a larger SEP vehicle leading to a mars vehicle was always the long term plan nasa cooked up to make the best use of the unwanted moon rocket that was foisted on them.

    Flexible path wasn’t just some buzz word either haveing large scale sep and chem/sep tugs opens up a lot of genuine possibilities that could be acted on in relatively short order(4 years or less) after the decision is made.

    Its not to late for this plan either despite the lack of a tangible mission (like grabbing a hunk of primordial space rock for study) all the relevant hardware is still in the pipeline (regulated to pulling station keeping duty for the station but still in the pipeline) once the propulsion and hab technologies and hardware are proven out they can be upscaled for NEA or mars missions

  • P.K. Sink

    Good luck with that.

  • passinglurker

    You got something against achievable deep space exploration?

  • P.K. Sink

    Actually…I’m fairly agnostic on where we head to in space…an asteroid is fine. I just wish that we’d pick a direction and stick to it. I like the moon because it is attracting a lot of commercial and international interest.

  • passinglurker

    Whenever there is a new administration they keep the short term plans to look like they are accomplishing something and change the long term plan that no one had actually started funding to look like they are leading.

    So in essence we are still on track for the previous plan the deep space hardware is still part of the pipeline and by the time it’s matured and we need to commit to the next phase trump will be out and his replacement will naturally pivot back on course.

  • P.K. Sink

    Yeah…matured hardware could take us to a lot of interesting places.