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Stardust flies past Tempel-1 comet!

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

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