Through the night of 4 July 2005, all European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes observed the effects of the impact on Comet 9P/Tempel 1. At sunset in Chile, the seven telescopes of the La Silla Paranal Observatory went into action.
The FORS2 multi-mode instrument on Antu, one of the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) array, took stunning images, showing that the morphology of the comet had dramatically changed: a new bright fan-like structure was now visible.
The impact occurred at 07:52 CEST on 4 July. At that time, the comet had already set below the horizon in Chile, so ESO VLTs could only start observations several hours later, at 21:20 CEST. A pre-impact image is shown here for comparison.
The first ESO observations were actually done in the infrared by the TMMI2 instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla, at 21:20 CEST (still daylight in Chile).
Gerhard Schwehm | EurekAlert!
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