The WISEr Spotted Asteroid

Some of you may remember that I made a quick post late last year about the launch of WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer), the latest and greatest telescope in our array of orbital observatories. In that post I mentioned that WISE would be able to see objects from galaxies to asteroids - well, the telescope is now online and the first picture published is of - an asteroid!

Asteroid 2010 AB78 - yes, it's the red dot

So, why is it red, then?
Well, WISE is an infrared telescope, which means it is designed primarily to see heat - and what you are seeing is a hot little asteroid just over half a mile in diameter. Say hello to the first ever WISEr spotted asteroid - 2010 AB78. The image shows three infrared wavelengths, with red representing the longest wavelength of 12 microns, and green and blue showing 4.6- and 3.4-micron light, respectively.

What has some astronomers worried is that this we should have already spotted this one. WISE had no trouble finding it, which is good news, but if there are a lot more like this out there, then that means our existing asteroid hunting hardware has been sorely lacking. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we really should have a lot more hardware like this out there looking out for us. 2010 AB78 is harmess and has a zero chance of hitting Earth, but if we didn't see it before, then the chances are that there are a lot more out there, and that one of those previously unseen objects is on its way to visit us as a very unwelcome guest.

I have said before and I'm quite happy to say it again - it's a big bad universe out there and it is looking for the next great way to make life difficult for us. Stop wasting time fighting amongst ourselves and start looking out for our future. It's all very well to think that being hit by an asteroid is too remote a possibility to worry about, but the only way to be sure is to invest in better eyes so that we can see and be sure.

If anyone ever asks what space exploration has ever done for us, just point them to this little blog post and the lovely picture of our latest asteroid friend - 2010 AB78. A friend that we now know for sure will not harm us - thanks to space exploration.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
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