Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Measure How Deep "Deep Impact" Was, With X-rays

11.07.2005


Here come the X-rays, on cue. Scientists studying the Deep Impact collision using NASA’s Swift satellite report that comet Tempel 1 is getting brighter and brighter in X-ray light with each passing day.



The X-rays provide a direct measurement of how much material was kicked up in the impact. This is because the X-rays are created by the newly liberated material lifted into the comet’s thin atmosphere and illuminated by the high-energy solar wind from the Sun. The more material liberated, the more X-rays are produced.

Swift data of the water evaporation on comet Tempel 1 also may provide new insights into how solar wind can strip water from planets such as Mars.


"Prior to its rendezvous with the Deep Impact probe, the comet was a rather dim X-ray source," said Dr. Paul O’Brien of the Swift team at the University of Leicester. "How things change when you ram a comet with a copper probe traveling over 20,000 miles per hour. Most of the X-ray light we detect now is generated by debris created by the collision. We can get a solid measurement of the amount of material released."

"It takes several days after an impact for surface and sub-surface material to reach the comet’s upper atmosphere, or coma," said Dr. Dick Willingale, also of the University of Leicester. "We expect the X-ray production to peak this weekend. Then we will be able to assess how much comet material was released from the impact."

Based on preliminary X-ray analysis, O’Brien estimates that several tens of thousands of tons of material were released, enough to bury Penn State’s football field under 30 feet of comet dust. Observations and analysis are ongoing at the Swift Mission Operations Center at Penn State University as well as in Italy and the United Kingdom.

Swift is providing the only simultaneous multi-wavelength observation of this rare event, with a suite of instruments capable of detecting visible light, ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays. Different wavelengths reveal different secrets about the comet.

The Swift team hopes to compare the satellite’s ultraviolet data, collected hours after the collision, with the X-ray data. The ultraviolet light was created by material entering into the lower region of the comet’s atmosphere; the X-rays come from the upper regions. Swift is a nearly ideal observatory for making these comet studies, as it combines both a rapidly responsive scheduling system with both X-ray and optical/UV instruments in the same satellite.

"For the first time, we can see how material liberated from a comet’s surface migrates to the upper reaches of its atmosphere," said Prof. John Nousek, Director of Mission Operations at Penn State. "This will provide fascinating information about a comet’s atmosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind. This is all virgin territory."

Nousek said Deep Impact’s collision with comet Tempel 1 is like a controlled laboratory experiment of the type of slow evaporation process from solar wind that took place on Mars. The Earth has a magnetic field that shields us from solar wind, a particle wind composed mostly of protons and electrons moving at nearly light speed. Mars lost its magnetic field billions of years ago, and the solar wind stripped the planet of water.

Comets, like Mars and Venus, have no magnetic fields. Comets become visible largely because ice is evaporated from their surface with each close passage around the Sun. Water is dissociated into its component atoms by the bright sunlight and swept away by the fast-moving and energetic solar wind. Scientists hope to learn about this evaporation process on Tempel 1 now occurring quickly -- over the course of a few weeks instead of a billion years -- as the result of a planned, human intervention.

Swift’s "day job" is detecting distant, natural explosions called gamma-ray bursts and creating a map of X-ray sources in the universe. Swift’s extraordinary speed and agility enable scientists to follow Tempel 1 day by day to see the full effect from the Deep Impact collision.

For the latest news on Swift analysis of comet Tempel 1, refer to:
http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Swift-Deep-Impact.htm
http://swift.gsfc.nasa.gov
and http://swift.sonoma.edu/

The Deep Impact mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Swift is a medium-class NASA explorer mission in partnership with the Italian Space Agency and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council in the United Kingdom, and is managed by NASA Goddard. Penn State controls science and flight operations from the Mission Operations Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. The spacecraft was built in collaboration with national laboratories, universities and international partners, including Penn State University; Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico; Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, Calif.; Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Dorking, Surrey, England; the University of Leicester, England; Brera Observatory in Milan; and ASI Science Data Center in Frascati, Italy.

IMAGES AND VIDEOS:
High-resolution images and videos are available on the web at
http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Swift-Deep-Impact.htm

CONTACTS:
John Nousek: nousek@astro.psu.edu, 814-865-7747
Paul O’Brien: pto@star.le.ac.uk, +44 116 252 5203
Dick Willingale: rw@star.le.ac.uk +44 116 252 3356
Lynn Cominsky: lynnc@universe.sonoma.edu, 707-664-2655
Barbara K. Kennedy (PIO), science@psu.edu, 814-863-4682

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Swift-Deep-Impact.htm
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
23.02.2017 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars
22.02.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>