NASA has created a stunning time-lapse movie of the entire night sky, spanning 12 years.
The clip was created using images from the NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer) space telescope.
Launched in 2009 under the former name WISE, the orbiting probe was designed to study objects outside the solar system.
Nasa said the time-lapse demonstrates the power of the spacecraft’s infrared camera, which scans the sky every six months.
“Every six months, NEOWISE completes a journey around half the sun and takes pictures in all directions,” the space agency said.
“Combined, these images form an ‘all-sky’ map showing the location and brightness of hundreds of millions of objects.
“Using 18 all-sky maps produced by the spacecraft, scientists have essentially created a time-lapse movie of the sky, revealing changes spanning over a decade.”
In the image, infrared light from massive cosmic events appears as a faint glow.
Distant galaxies and black holes, for example, can be tracked as they grow and expand, or disappear as they die.
NEOWISE was designed to study objects outside the solar system, such as stars and planets.
It has since been repurposed to help scientists track near-Earth objects like NEOs like asteroids and comets.
Scientists are tracking thousands of NEOs that could one day pose a threat to our planet.
NEOWISE helps by completing a journey around half the sun every six months.
As it moves, it takes pictures in all directions. These can be stitched together to form the time-lapse that will be released this week.
“When you go outside and look up at the night sky, it seems like nothing ever changes, but that’s not the case,” said Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE.
“Stars shine and explode,” she added. “Asteroids are whizzing by. Black holes tear stars apart. The universe is a very busy, active place.”
Astronomers use images from telescopes like NEOWISE to study how cosmic objects change over time.
NEOWISE and its predecessor have historically proved indispensable for recent studies of the universe.
In 2012, for example, it uncovered millions of supermassive black holes in distant galaxies.
eight years later NEOWISE Brown dwarfs were studied – stunted stars that never accumulated enough mass for nuclear fusion.
“We never expected the spacecraft to be operational for so long, and I don’t think we could have anticipated the science that we could do with so much data,” said WISE project scientist and NASA astronomer Peter Eisenhardt.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/9600081/nasa-time-lapse-night-sky-stars-black-holes/ Nasa reveals stunning 12-year time-lapse of entire night sky – complete with ‘stunted’ stars and giant black holes