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U.S. explorer catches images of asteroid marching across Tadpole Nebula

05-14-2010 08:40 BJT

LOS ANGELES, May 13 (Xinhua) -- NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, happened to catch the image of an asteroid marching across Tadpole Nebula, the Jet Laboratory (JPL) said on Thursday.

As WISE scanned the sky on a recent mission, it happened to catch the asteroid in our solar system passing by, according to the JPL.

The asteroid, called 1719 Jens, left tracks across the image, seen as a line of yellow-green dots in the boxes near center.

The asteroid, discovered in 1950, orbits in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The space rock, which has a diameter of 19 kilometers (12 miles), rotates every 5.9 hours and orbits the sun every 4.3 years.

A second asteroid was also observed cruising by, as highlighted in the boxes near the upper left (the larger boxes are blown-up versions of the smaller ones), the JPL said.

But that's not all that WISE caught in this busy image -- two satellites orbiting above WISE streak through the image, appearing as faint green trails.

The apparent motion of asteroids is slower than satellites because asteroids are much more distant, and thus appear as dots that move from one WISE frame to the next, rather than streaks in a single frame, said the JPL.

This Tadpole region is chock full of stars as young as only a million years old -- infants in stellar terms -- and masses over 10 times that of our sun, the JPL said.

It is called the Tadpole nebula because the masses of hot, young stars are blasting out ultraviolet radiation that has etched the gas into two tadpole-shaped pillars, called Sim 129 and Sim 130.

These "tadpoles" appear as the yellow squiggles near the center of the frame. The knotted regions at their heads are likely to contain new young stars. WISE's infrared vision is helping to ferret out hidden stars such as these.

WISE is an all-sky survey, snapping pictures of the whole sky, including everything from asteroids to stars to powerful, distant galaxies.

Headquartered in Pasadena, Los Angeles, the JPL manages WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington D.C. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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