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Hubble captures Deep Impact’s collision with a comet


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 10 minutes before the impact. The encounter occurred at 7:52 a.m. CEST.

The sequence of images (files enclosed to this release) shows the comet before and after the impact. The image at left shows the comet 10 minutes 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.

Lars Christensen | alfa
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