This New Year's Eve the University of Maryland-led Deep Impact team will again celebrate a holiday in a way that few can match, when their Deep Impact spacecraft "buzzes" the Earth on a flyby that marks the beginning of a more than two-and-a-half-year journey to comet Hartley 2.
In 2005, the Deep Impact team, led by University of Maryland astronomer Michael A'Hearn, celebrated July 4th by smashing a probe into comet Tempel 1 to give the world its first look inside a comet.
The trip to Hartley 2 is one part of a new two-part mission for the team and its Deep Impact spacecraft. During the first six months of the journey, the Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh) mission team will use the larger of the two telescopes on the Deep Impact spacecraft to search for Earth-sized planets around five stars selected as likely candidates for such planets. Upon arriving at the comet the Deep Impact eXtended Investigation (DIXI) will conduct an extended flyby of Hartley 2 using all three of the spacecraft's instruments (two telescopes with digital color cameras and an infrared spectrometer. The name for the new combined mission, EPOXI, is a combination of the names of its component missions (EPOCh + DIXI = EPOXI).
The team is using the flyby of Earth to calibrate the spacecrafts instruments for the new mission and to help slingshot it on the way toward Hartley 2. Although the spacecraft will come closest to the Earth on New Year's Eve, the Maryland-led team has already begun its calibration work.
"On Saturday, 29 December, two days before its close flyby of Earth, the Deep Impact flyby spacecraft made observations of the moon to calibrate its instruments for its new mission, EPOXI," said A'Hearn. "Some calibrations are obtainable only on a bright, large source, like the moon when reasonably close to it. It looks as though everything operated just as the science team asked it to operate and you can't ask for anything better than that,â€ he said. "
'This Earth gravity assist provided a unique opportunity for us to calibrate our instruments using the Moon," said Jessica Sunshine, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland. "In particular, the Moon is very useful because it fills the entire field of view of the infrared spectrometer. The results show that our spacecraft pointing and commanding was spot on. We also made measurements which will allow us to cross-calibrate our instruments with telescopic data and, in the very near future, with a wealth of lunar measurements from new orbiting spacecraft. These data will significantly improve the science from EPOCh observations of Earth and the DIXI flyby of comet Hartley 2, as well as from Deep Impact's prime mission to comet Tempel 1," said Sunshine who is deputy principal investigator on DIXI.
Lee Tune | EurekAlert!
Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons
20.03.2018 | ITMO University
Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions
20.03.2018 | University of California - Berkeley
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences