The space-based telescope known as WISE has been orbiting Earth in a hibernative state for the past 2 ½ years. Now, nap time is over.
WISE has some asteroid hunting to do.
This week, NASA announced it will reactivate the space telescope and put it back to work as an asteroid hunter, focused on finding potentially hazardous asteroids and other space rocks that could come uncomfortably close to Earth.
WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, was launched in December 2009 to scan the night sky in infrared light — looking for heat emanating from galaxies, stars and asteroids.
By the time its primary mission ended in February 2011, WISE had captured more than 2.7 million images in multiple wavelengths and cataloged more than 560 million objects in space, according to NASA.
In a separate mission, NEOWISE, the telescope also made the most accurate survey of near-Earth objects to date.
When the mission was over, the scientists decided to put it to sleep rather than turn it off.
"We turned off the cameras and all the unnecessary electronics, and what was left was basically enough power to keep its solar arrays pointing toward the sun so it can still get power," said Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Waking up the telescope and getting it back into working mode shouldn't be too hard, she said.