Headlines > News > NASA Releases Images of Man-Made Crater on Comet

NASA Releases Images of Man-Made Crater on Comet

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:00 am via: NASA
Share
More share options
Tools
Tags

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Stardust spacecraft returned new images of a comet showing a scar resulting from the 2005 Deep Impact mission. The images also showed the comet has a fragile and weak nucleus.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to comet Tempel 1 on Monday, Feb. 14, at 8:40 p.m. PST (11:40 p.m. EST) at a distance of approximately 178 kilometers (111 miles). Stardust took 72 high-resolution images of the comet. It also accumulated 468 kilobytes of data about the dust in its coma, the cloud that is a comet’s atmosphere. The craft is on its second mission of exploration called Stardust-NExT, having completed its prime mission collecting cometary particles and returning them to Earth in 2006.

This pair of images shows the before-and-after comparison of the part of comet Tempel 1 that was hit by the impactor from NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

This pair of images shows the before-and-after comparison of the part of comet Tempel 1 that was hit by the impactor from NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

The Stardust-NExT mission met its goals, which included observing surface features that changed in areas previously seen during the 2005 Deep Impact mission; imaging new terrain; and viewing the crater generated when the 2005 mission propelled an impactor at the comet.

“This mission is 100 percent successful,” said Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. “We saw a lot of new things that we didn’t expect, and we’ll be working hard to figure out what Tempel 1 is trying to tell us.”

This pair of images shows the area affected by the impactor released by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. On the left, the image from Deep Impact shows a dark mound about 50 meters (160 feet) in size. It is inside a yellow circle that shows the area hit by the impactor released by Deep Impact. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

This pair of images shows the area affected by the impactor released by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. On the left, the image from Deep Impact shows a dark mound about 50 meters (160 feet) in size. It is inside a yellow circle that shows the area hit by the impactor released by Deep Impact. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

Several of the images provide tantalizing clues to the result of the Deep Impact mission’s collision with Tempel 1.

“We see a crater with a small mound in the center, and it appears that some of the ejecta went up and came right back down,” said Pete Schultz of Brown University, Providence, R.I. “This tells us this cometary nucleus is fragile and weak based on how subdued the crater is we see today.”

This image layout depicts changes in the surface of comet Tempel 1, observed first by NASA's Deep Impact Mission in 2005 (top right) and again by NASA's Stardust-NExT mission on Feb. 14, 2011 (bottom right). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

This image layout depicts changes in the surface of comet Tempel 1, observed first by NASA's Deep Impact Mission in 2005 (top right) and again by NASA's Stardust-NExT mission on Feb. 14, 2011 (bottom right). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

Engineering telemetry downlinked after closest approach indicates the spacecraft flew through waves of disintegrating cometary particles, including a dozen impacts that penetrated more than one layer of its protective shielding.

“The data indicate Stardust went through something similar to a B-17 bomber flying through flak in World War II,” said Don Brownlee, Stardust-NExT co-investigator from the University of Washington in Seattle. “Instead of having a little stream of uniform particles coming out, they apparently came out in chunks and crumbled.”

This image layout depicts changes in the surface of comet Tempel 1, observed first by NASA's Deep Impact Mission in 2005 (top right) and again by NASA's Stardust-NExT mission on Feb. 14, 2011 (bottom right). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

This image layout depicts changes in the surface of comet Tempel 1, observed first by NASA's Deep Impact Mission in 2005 (top right) and again by NASA's Stardust-NExT mission on Feb. 14, 2011 (bottom right). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland/Cornell

While the Valentine’s Day night encounter of Tempel 1 is complete, the spacecraft will continue to look at its latest cometary obsession from afar.

This pair of images shows a before-and-after comparison of the area on comet Tempel 1 targeted by an impactor from NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland

This pair of images shows a before-and-after comparison of the area on comet Tempel 1 targeted by an impactor from NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Maryland

This image is part of a news conference about NASA's Stardust-NExT mission. A full caption will be posted soon. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

This image is part of a news conference about NASA's Stardust-NExT mission. A full caption will be posted soon. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

This image mosaic shows four different views of comet Tempel 1 as seen by NASA's Stardust spacecraft as it flew by on Feb. 14, 2011. The images progress in time beginning at upper left, moving to upper right, then proceeding from lower left to lower right. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

This image mosaic shows four different views of comet Tempel 1 as seen by NASA's Stardust spacecraft as it flew by on Feb. 14, 2011. The images progress in time beginning at upper left, moving to upper right, then proceeding from lower left to lower right. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

“This spacecraft has logged over 3.5 billion miles since launch, and while its last close encounter is complete, its mission of discovery is not,” said Tim Larson, Stardust-NExT project manager at JPL. “We’ll continue imaging the comet as long as the science team can gain useful information, and then Stardust will get its well-deserved rest.”

NASA's Stardust-NExT mission took this image of comet Tempel 1 at 8:39 p.m. PST (11:39 p.m. EST) on Feb 14, 2011. The comet was first visited by NASA's Deep Impact mission in 2005. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

NASA's Stardust-NExT mission took this image of comet Tempel 1 at 8:39 p.m. PST (11:39 p.m. EST) on Feb 14, 2011. The comet was first visited by NASA's Deep Impact mission in 2005. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

This image obtained by NASA's Stardust spacecraft shows a side of the nucleus of comet Tempel 1 that has never been seen before. In the image, three terraces of different elevations are visible, with dark, banded scarps, or slopes, separating them. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

This image obtained by NASA's Stardust spacecraft shows a side of the nucleus of comet Tempel 1 that has never been seen before. In the image, three terraces of different elevations are visible, with dark, banded scarps, or slopes, separating them. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

These two images show the different views of comet Tempel 1 seen by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft (left) and NASA's Stardust spacecraft (right).

These two images show the different views of comet Tempel 1 seen by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft (left) and NASA's Stardust spacecraft (right).

Stardust-NExT is a low-cost mission that is expanding the investigation of comet Tempel 1 initiated by the Deep Impact spacecraft. The mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations.

No comments
Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!
Leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© 2014 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use