Spacecraft finds new comets, asteroids

Feb. 1, 2011 at 4:52 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A NASA spacecraft surveying our solar system has discovered previously unknown objects, including 20 new comets and more than 33,00 asteroids, scientists say.

The main mission of the NEOWISE program was to hunt for more asteroids and comets and to finish one complete scan of the main asteroid belt, a NASA release said Tuesday.

The mission also identified 134 near-Earth objects, or NEOs, asteroids and comets whose orbits bring them within 28 million miles of Earth's path around the sun, researchers said.

"Even just one year of observations from the NEOWISE project has significantly increased our catalog of data on NEOs and the other small bodies of the solar systems," Lindley Johnson, NASA program executive for the NEO Observation Program, said.

NEOWISE data on asteroid and comet orbits are cataloged at the NASA-funded International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, a clearinghouse for information about all solar system bodies at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

The mission was managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

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