The close approach pictures are coming back from yesterday’s flyby of the Tempel 1 comet by the Stardust spacecraft! Tempel 1 was last visited in 2005 by the Deep Impact mission, which you may recall launched a projectile that smashed into the comet. Unfortunately the impact flash was so bright that Deep Impact couldn’t actually image the crater made by the impact, but now we’ve got an opportunity to see the scar again (if it’s still visible).
Apparently everything went well and the flyby went according to plan, so Stardust’s final mission was a success! The images are being uploaded here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/stardust/ – the latest ones are at the top of the page. Here’s the latest one that’s been released at the time of writing (cropped and rotated by Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society):
High resolution view of comet Tempel 1 on February 15, 2011 at 04:38 UTC, just before its close flyby. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Emily Lakdawalla
Continue reading ‘Stardust flies past Tempel-1 comet!’
I’m working on another science post of my own, but in the meantime I thought I’d share this rather awesome montage that Emily Lakdawalla compiled over at the Planetary Society Blog, which is well worth following if you’re into solar system exploration. It shows all the asteroids and comets that have been visited by spacecraft as of November 2010, including Comet Hartley 2. The really nice thing is that it shows them all at the same scale, so you can see the differences that size makes to thinks like crater size (I think Mathilde is roughly the size of Greater London).
There’s a much larger version of the image available on the Planetary Society page that’s definitely worth checking out too, that shows the little ones in more detail – though be warned, the image is huge!
Credits: Montage by Emily Lakdawalla. Ida, Dactyl, Braille, Annefrank, Gaspra, Borrelly: NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk. Steins: ESA / OSIRIS team. Eros: NASA / JHUAPL. Itokawa: ISAS / JAXA / Emily Lakdawalla. Mathilde: NASA / JHUAPL / Ted Stryk. Lutetia: ESA / OSIRIS team / Emily Lakdawalla. Halley: Russian Academy of Sciences / Ted Stryk. Tempel 1, Hartley 2: NASA / JPL / UMD. Wild 2: NASA / JPL.
(if you want to comment on it, go over to the Planetary Society Blog and tell Emily! 🙂 )
The Deep Impact spacecraft flew past Comet Hartley-2 earlier today, and has started to return some dramatic pictures of the comet’s icy nucleus – it looks like a roughly 2 km long peanut, with jets of material erupting from the rougher ends that look like they’re covered with boulders, and a smooth central section that may be filled in by dust. It might even be a ‘contact binary’, consisting of two separate objects that are just barely touching eachother and are held in place by gravity (so the ‘neck’ is where dust has flowed into the region between the two objects). There are lots more images coming in (apparently a total of 120,000!) and the ones we’ve seen so far aren’t even the high resolution ones, so stay tuned! 🙂
Comet Hartley 2, Image courtesy NASA/JPl-Caltech
More info and pictures at : http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-371
Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has also made a very cool approach/departure animation of the images that have been downloaded so far, showing the nucleus tumbling through space – it’s well worth checking out!