NASA’s latest space telescope will scan the sky in search of never-before-seen asteroids, comets, stars and galaxies, with one of its main tasks to catalog objects posing a danger to Earth. The sky-mapping WISE, or Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, is scheduled to launch no earlier than before dawn Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast aboard a Delta 2 rocket.

If all goes as planned, WISE will orbit some 325 miles above the Earth and produce the most detailed map yet of the cosmos. It is designed to detect objects that give off infrared light or heat. Infrared light is ideal for uncovering dusty, cold and distant objects that often can’t be seen by optical telescopes.

The mission is expected to find millions of hard-to-see objects, said principal investigator Edward Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles.

“It’s really a mission to survey everything that’s out there,” Wright said. “What we’re trying to do is make a map of the universe.”

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