If we really wanted to grab your attention, we should have illustrated this page with a dinosaur
IT WAS a great piece of legermain and the more I examined it, the more I appreciated it.
In mid-March, one news story was picked up by the various services of the blogosphere, and spread quite quickly: In all cases, the lede was about the hypothetical Nemesis star, a red dwarf in our immediate galactic area that supposedly exerts a level of gravitational force on the debris floating about the Oort Cloud, which surrounds our solar system.
Every 26m to 65m years, Nemesis unwittingly sends a comet or asteroid at the Earth, blasting everything into extinction.
This is all hypothetical, you understand, no one is really certain what wiped out the dinosaurs. But these stories are great propaganda for the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite telescope program, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) latest project.
But WISE, usually mentioned in the final third of those various news stories I mentioned, is already fascinating enough: it does not need the bells and whistles of the alleged comet-murder of the dinosaurs for added public interest.
Not that I can blame NASA: slap a dinosaur on it, and the public comes running - myself included, no matter what it is .
Honestly, though, I'm glad the dinosaurs got killed: because if they didn't die, I wouldn't have fine petrochemical-based products to make my 21st century life so enjoyable.
EYE IN THE SKY
And speaking of 21st century products, the WISE telescope mission is pretty darn cool: Launched in December, made operational in January, WISE will take a photo every 11 seconds for a total of 1.5m snapshots of deep space.
Run by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, over the six to 10 months of its mission, until the satellite's coolant runs out, WISE will take images in the 3 to 25 micrometre wavelength range of 99% of the sky with its infrared cameras.
The coolant is imperative, as the telescope is infrared, and needs to be cooler than the objects being photographed.
So if there is a Nemesis star out in the Oort, WISE should be able to pick it up.