Asteroid Caught Marching Across Tadpole Nebula

May 13, 2010
This image from WISE shows the Tadpole nebula. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new infrared image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, showcases the Tadpole nebula, a star-forming hub in the Auriga constellation about 12,000 light-years from Earth. As WISE scanned the sky, capturing this mosaic of stitched-together frames, it happened to catch an asteroid in our solar system passing by. The asteroid, called 1719 Jens, left tracks across the image, seen as a line of yellow-green dots in the boxes near center. 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).

But that's not all that WISE caught in this busy image -- two satellites orbiting above WISE (highlighted in the ovals) 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.

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. It is called the Tadpole nebula because the masses of hot, are blasting out 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.

The 1719 Jens , 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.

Twenty-five frames of the region, taken at all four of the wavelengths detected by WISE, were combined into this one image. The caught 1719 Jens in 11 successive frames. Infrared light of 3.4 microns is color-coded blue: 4.6-micron light is cyan; 12-micron-light is green; and 22-micron light is red.

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

Explore further: Eclipsing binary stars discovered by high school students

Related Stories

WISE Captures a Cosmic Rose

Mar 16, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new infrared image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows a cosmic rosebud blossoming with new stars. The stars, called the Berkeley 59 cluster, are the blue dots ...

The First of Many Asteroid Finds for WISE

Jan 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has spotted its first never-before-seen near-Earth asteroid, the first of hundreds it is expected to find during its mission to map the ...

Hiding Out Behind the Milky Way

Apr 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A leggy cosmic creature comes out of hiding in this new infrared view from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

WISE Mission Releases Medley of First Images

Feb 17, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A diverse cast of cosmic characters is showcased in the first survey images NASA released Wednesday from its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

WISE Eye Spies First Glimpse of the Starry Sky

Jan 06, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has captured its first look at the starry sky that it will soon begin surveying in infrared light.

Recommended for you

Swirling electrons in the whirlpool galaxy

18 hours ago

The whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 (M51) is seen from a distance of approximately 30 million light years. This galaxy appears almost face-on and displays a beautiful system of spiral arms.

A spectacular landscape of star formation

Aug 20, 2014

This image, captured by the Wide Field Imager at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows two dramatic star formation regions in the Milky Way. The first, on the left, is dominated by the star cluster NGC ...

Exoplanet measured with remarkable precision

Aug 19, 2014

Barely 30 years ago, the only planets astronomers had found were located right here in our own solar system. The Milky Way is chock-full of stars, millions of them similar to our own sun. Yet the tally ...

New star catalog reveals unexpected 'solar salad'

Aug 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —An Arizona State University alumnus has devised the largest catalog ever produced for stellar compositions. Called the Hypatia Catalog, after one of the first female astronomers who lived in ...

User comments : 0