Stories tagged deep impact


Comet Temple 1
Comet Temple 1Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD
The following is from a listserv I am on that I thought was interesting.

On February 14, NASA's Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel 1) mission will encounter Comet Tempel 1, providing a unique opportunity to measure the dust properties of two separate comets (Wild 2 and Tempel 1) with the same instrument for accurate data comparison. The encounter will also provide a comparison between two observations of a single comet, Tempel 1, taken before and after a single orbital pass around the sun.

NASA's Stardust spacecraft will fly within 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) of Comet Tempel 1 on February 14, 2011, at about 8:36 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

NASA's Deep Impact mission observed Comet Tempel 1 in the summer of 2005, as the comet was inbound toward the Sun on its approximately 5.5-year orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Deep Impact's primary mission was to deliver a special impactor spacecraft into the path of Comet Tempel 1. The spacecraft -- and many ground-based observers -- observed the impact and the ejected material. Scientists were surprised the cloud was composed of a fine, powdery material, not the expected water, ice, and dirt. The spacecraft did find the first evidence of surface ice on the surface of a comet instead of just inside a comet.

The Stardust-NExT mission is a low-cost use of an in-flight spacecraft redirected to a new target. Prior to its tasking for Tempel 1, the Stardust spacecraft successfully flew through the cloud of dust that surrounds the nucleus of comet Wild 2 in Jan. 2004. The particles of cometary material and gathered during this flyby were then returned to Earth aboard a sample return capsule which landed in the Utah desert in January 2006.

Hubble image of Comet 103P/Hartley 2
Hubble image of Comet 103P/Hartley 2Courtesy NASA, ESA, and H. Weaver (The Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Lab)
Periodic comet 103P/Hartley 2is currently visible high in the evening sky. Learn more here.

The Deep Impact spacecraft has been redirected to fly past Comet 103P/Hartley 2 on November 4. Read more about that here.


NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft is about to crash a probe into a comet 83 million miles from Earth. This will be the first ever super high speed impact between a comet and a man made probe. The collision is scheduled to take place around 1am Central Time,

Play the DEEP IMPACT game

Comet Game Screenshot

A Satellite flies near a meteor in space.  A large impact shooting gas out can be seen on the surface of the meteor.
Courtesy of NASA/JPL/UMD Artwork by Pat Rawlings

July 4 and will be observed by ground and space based observatories as well as the Deep Impact spacecraft and probes themselves.

Given that the comet, named Tempel 1, is traveling at a speed of roughly 6.3 miles per second, and the probe is only 39 inches wide, there is little room for error. Makes me think of word problems for math class. "If a comet is hurtling through space at 23,000 miles per hour 83 million miles from Earth, and you launched a spacecraft to collide with it 173 days prior to the collision, how fast must the spacecraft travel to deploy a probe to impact the comet on July 4?"

Learn more about this amazing mission by visiting the Deep Impact website.