NASA reveals incredible 12-year time-lapse of the entire sky

Virgin Radio

21 Oct 2022, 07:36

Images captured by the NEOWISE telescope

Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA has released an incredible time-lapse video of the sky, captured over 12 years.

Twice a year, the telescope NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer) takes a trip half way around the sun and captures images in all directions.

Scientists will take the images and stitch them together to create an ‘all-sky’ map so they can see what has changed and analyse the objects in the sky.

Over 12 years, there have been 18 maps produced by the telescope and scientists have now created a time-lapse film to show how the sky has developed, in a discipline that is known as time-domain astronomy.

Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, said: “If you go outside and look at the night sky, it might seem like nothing ever changes, but that’s not the case.

“Stars are flaring and exploding. Asteroids are whizzing by. Black holes are tearing stars apart. The universe is a really busy active place.”

Watch the time-lapse video:

The time-lapse has also contributed important research in star formation studies as NEOWISE can analyse “protostars, or balls of hot gas” as they become stars.

NASA explained: “Over the course of years, protostars flicker and flare as they accumulate more mass from the dust clouds that surround them.

“Scientists are conduction long-term monitoring of almost 1,000 protostars with NEOWISE to gain insights into the early stages of star formation.”

Another thing that the telescope has picked up are millions of black holes at the centres of distant galaxies, which means more research can also be done around them as a result.

Using a method called Echo Mapping, scientists can measure the size of the disks of hot glowing gas surrounding the black holes and learn more about them.

Peter Eisenhardt, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and WISE project scientist, said: "We never anticipated that the spacecraft would be operating this long, and I don't think we could have anticipated the science we'd be able to do with this much data."

In other news, scientists believe the earth's land masses are coming back together again to form a 'supercontinent' and you can read more about that here.