What if the scientific data collected by NASA and JPL on 164,000 asteroids was wrong?
This article reviews what happened when a renowned scientist challenged NASA and JPL.
If the data is wrong, is Earth at a greater risk of an asteroid impact?
Why would NASA cover up the truth?
First let’s start with some background
NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) spacecraft was an infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope active from December 2009 to February 2011. WISE scanned the entire sky twice with infrared light snapping pictures of a billion objects including remote galaxies, stars, and asteroids. Its primary mission ended in October 2011.
NASA extended the mission in Oct. 2011 and renamed NEOWISE and scanned the sky’s for four months searching for Near Earth Objects – During its primary and extended mission it had discovered over 35,000 new asteroids and comets and over 154,000 solar system objects.
When the mission was complete in 2011 WISE was put to sleep.
Then the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over Russia in February 2013 and the world woke to the threat of asteroid impacts – Earth needed to step up efforts of asteroid detection.
WISE was brought out of hibernation in September 2013. Since its cryogen coolant was depleted the operating temperature of the telescope was reduced by having it stare into deep space. It’s instruments were re-calibrated and began taking pictures in December 2013.
From December 2013 and May 2019, the telescope made 640,000 observations of over 26,000 known asteroids and comets.
- NEOWISE hunts near-Earth objects from low-Earth orbit.
- The spacecraft orbits Earth once every 95 minutes,15 times per day.
- NEOWISE is still scanning the sky’s today
As of mid-August 2019, NEOWISE is 36% of the way through its 12th coverage of the sky since the start of the Reactivation mission,” according to the spacecraft’s project page. “Over 840,000 infrared measurements have been made of 34,889 different solar system objects, including 1,030 NEOs and 176 comets.”
But NEOWISE’s success at its second career was due to luck, not design, and the luck is running out. “It turned out to be pretty good at picking up asteroids,” Amy Mainzer, who was principal investigator for NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California at the time, said during a media briefing in March. “Because it was never designed for that purpose, it is near the end of its life.”
NEOWISE mission is expected to end around mid-2020, although he emphasized that timeline is an estimate, and the instrument’s tenure could last longer.
So, what’s wrong with NEOWISE?
NASA began releasing NEOWISE data in March of 2015. A renowned scientist named Nathan Myhrvold studied the data and found scientific, methodological, and ethical problems with the NEOWISE Asteroid project, its results, and published papers. He went to great lengths to examine and analyze the published data.
For those who may not recognize the name here is a short introduction:
Nathan Myhrvold is described as a polymath or person of wide-ranging knowledge. He is a fascinating man.…