Hubble captures Deep Impact's collision

July 4, 2005
Hubble captures Deep Impact's collision

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured the dramatic effects of the collision early July 4 between a 370-kilogram projectile released by the Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1.

This sequence of images shows the comet before and after the impact. The image at left shows the comet about a minute before the impact. The encounter occurred at 7:52 a.m. CEST.

In the middle image, captured 15 minutes after the collision, Tempel 1 appears four times brighter than in the pre-impact photo. Astronomers noticed that the inner cloud of dust and gas surrounding the comet's nucleus increased by about 200 kilometres in size. The impact caused a brilliant flash of light and a constant increase in the brightness of the inner cloud of dust and gas.

The Hubble telescope continued to monitor the comet, snapping another image [at right] 62 minutes after the encounter. In this photo, the gas and dust ejected during the impact are expanding outward in the shape of a fan. The fan-shaped debris is travelling at about 1,800 kilometres an hour, or twice as fast as the speed of a commercial jet. The debris extends about 1,800 kilometres from the nucleus.

The potato-shaped comet is 14 kilometres wide and 4 kilometres long. Tempel 1's nucleus is too small even for the Hubble telescope to resolve.

The visible-light images were taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys' High Resolution Camera.

Source: ESA
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Feldman (Johns Hopkins University) and H. Weaver (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

Explore further: Europe's comet orbiter back after 'dramatic' silence

Related Stories

Europe's comet orbiter back after 'dramatic' silence

June 2, 2016

Europe's trailblazing spacecraft Rosetta has resumed its exploration of a comet hurtling through the Solar System after a "dramatic weekend" in which contact with Earth was lost for nearly 24 hours, mission control said Thursday.

Comets play a role in the history of civilization

November 11, 2013

The sight of a bright comet has fascinated humankind through the ages. But what's behind such celestial spectacles? It's only in modern times that researchers have got wise to the phenomenon - by then, the comets already ...

Hubble captures outburst from Tempel 1 comet

June 27, 2005

The images are a reminder that Tempel 1's icy nucleus, roughly the size of central Paris, is dynamic and volatile. Astronomers hope the eruption of dust seen in these observations is a preview of the fireworks that may come ...

Recommended for you

Force triggers gene expression by stretching chromatin

August 26, 2016

How genes in our DNA are expressed into traits within a cell is a complicated mystery with many players, the main suspects being chemical. However, a new study by University of Illinois researchers and collaborators in China ...

The sound of a healthy reef

August 26, 2016

A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will help researchers understand the ways that marine animal larvae use sound as a cue to settle on coral reefs. The study, published on August 23rd in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.