DEEP IMPACT MISSION UPDATE
It Takes a Cosmic Village to View a Comet
Like people gazing skyward to watch Independence Day fireworks, an international array of telescopes will train expert eyes on a dramatic encounter between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and a passing comet. The explosive event will happen 133.6 million kilometers (83 million miles) from Earth in the early hours of July 4 Eastern Daylight Time (late July 3 Pacific Daylight Time). Telescopes on the ground and others orbiting in space will document the mission's crucial moments using different wavelengths of light.
Artist's concept showing Deep Impact just before impact with comet Tempel 1.
Image credit: Maas Digital.
Comets are dirty balls of ice that hold clues to our own solar system's formation and evolution. Deep Impact is the first space mission to attempt to break the surface of a comet and reveal the secrets inside. The mission will send a 360-kilogram (816-pound) impactor into the path of comet Tempel 1. After releasing the impactor, the main spacecraft, called the flyby craft, will move safely aside and collect information. During this phase, every moment counts. The flyby spacecraft will have just over 13 minutes to gather its precious data.
"The flyby craft is constrained to an 800-second interval from the time of impact to the time it will no longer be able to observe the impact site," said Dr. Karen Meech of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, co-investigator of the Deep Impact Earth-based campaign. "So ground and Earth-orbital observations will be key to realizing the full scientific potential of the mission."
While only part of the world will have a view of the comet through telescopes at the time of impact, astronomers all over the globe will be able to see the resulting effects over the next several hours, days, and possibly weeks. Some of the observations from professional observers will be posted on the Deep Impact mission site at http://www.deepimpact.umd.edu/stsp, and amateur observers are also asked to submit observations at http://www.deepimpact.umd.edu/amateur.
"The level of cooperation among planetary colleagues as well as from colleagues outside the field is unprecedented," said Meech. "The experiment has not only engaged people's curiosity, but also a desire to help the Deep Impact mission make the most of its one-shot opportunity."
This fourth of July, a cosmic village of telescopes will make history as they watch the spectacular feat, while the rest of the world waits eagerly for information and pictures.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
So far everything appears to be moving along swimmingly for the folks at Deep Impact Mission Control. The satellite itself got took a neat little video of comet Tempel 1 giving off a little comet-haze "sneeze"- you can view the movie here. My hat is once again tipped in the direction of all of the folks at NASA, Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation, JPL and the University of Maryland who are behind this project, and I applaud their efforts at succeeding thus far with the mission. The level of sophistication needed to be pull off this project is staggering, and my fingers are crossed that their efforts have not been in vain.
It will be a Fourth Of July that we will not soon forget.
and um, *cough*, you know, um, just in case, let's maybe you know, see if we can maybe, try and drum up some support to get things rolling with the B612 Project.
I'm Just sayin'.....