Tally-Ho! deep Impact spacecraft eyes comet target

Sep 08, 2010
60 Days before its flyby, a NASA spacecraft takes a picture of its quarry - comet Hartley 2. Image credit: NASA/JPL/UM

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft has beamed down the first of over 64,000 images it will be taking of Comet Hartley 2.

On Sunday, Sept. 5, NASA's spacecraft beamed down the first of more than 64,000 images it's expected to take of Hartley 2. The spacecraft, now on an extended mission known as EPOXI, has an appointment with the comet on Nov. 4, 2010.

It will use all three of the spacecraft's instruments (two telescopes with digital color cameras and an ) to scrutinize Hartley 2 for more than two months.

"Like any tourist who can't wait to get to a destination, we have already begun taking pictures of our comet -- Hartley 2," said Tim Larson, the project manager for EPOXI from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We have to wait for Nov. 4 to get the close-up pictures of the cometary nucleus, but these approach images should keep the science team busy for quite some time as well."

The imaging campaign, along with data from all the instruments aboard Deep Impact, will afford the mission's science team the best extended view of a comet in history during its pass through the . With the exception of one, six-day break to calibrate instruments and perform a trajectory correction maneuver, the spacecraft will continuously monitor Hartley 2's gas and dust output for the next 79 days.

This first image of comet Hartley 2 taken by Deep Impact was obtained by the spacecraft's Medium Resolution Imager on Sept. 5 when the spacecraft was 60 million kilometers (37.2 million miles) away from the comet.

EPOXI is an extended mission that utilizes the already "in flight" Deep Impact spacecraft to explore distinct celestial targets of opportunity. The name EPOXI itself is a combination of the names for the two extended mission components: the extrasolar planet observations, called Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh), and the flyby of comet Hartley 2, called the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI). The spacecraft will continue to be referred to as "Deep Impact."

Explore further: Holiday lights on the Sun: SDO imagery of a significant solar flare

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Deep Impact correction maneuver successful

May 16, 2005

Fifty-nine days before going head-to-head with comet Tempel 1, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully executed the second trajectory correction maneuver of the mission. The burn further refined the spacecraft's trajectory, or ...

NASA Announces Another Comet Mission

Oct 31, 2006

NASA announced today that it has accepted the University of Maryland proposal to send the Deep Impact spacecraft on an extended mission to get a close-up look at Comet Boethin.

Recommended for you

Scientists 'map' water vapor in Martian atmosphere

9 hours ago

Russian scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), together with their French and American colleagues, have ...

Water fleas prepared for trip to space

14 hours ago

Local 'Daphnia' waterfleas are currently being prepared by scientists at the University of Birmingham for their trip to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will be observed by astronauts.

The worst trip around the world

14 hours ago

As you celebrate the end of the year in the warmth of your home, spare a thought for the organisms riding with a third-class ticket on the International Space Station – bolted to the outside with no protection ...

User comments : 0

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.