Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Comet Tempel 1 Went Back to Sleep

14.07.2005


Astronomers Having Used ESO Telescopes Start Analysing Unique Dataset on the Comet Following the Deep Impact Mission



Ten days after part of the Deep Impact spacecraft plunged onto Comet Tempel 1 with the aim to create a crater and expose pristine material from beneath the surface, astronomers are back in the ESO Offices in Santiago, after more than a week of observing at the ESO La Silla Paranal Observatory. In this unprecedented observing campaign - among the most ambitious ever conducted by a single observatory - the astronomers have collected a large amount of invaluable data on this comet.

The astronomers have now started the lengthy process of data reduction and analysis. Being all together in a single place, and in close contacts with the space mission’ scientific team, they will try to assemble a clear picture of the comet and of the impact.


The ESO observations were part of a worldwide campaign to observe this unique experiment. During the campaign, ESO was connected by phone, email, and videoconference with colleagues in all major observatories worldwide, and data were freely exchanged between the different groups. This unique collaborative spirit provides astronomers with data taken almost around the clock during several days and this, with the largest variety of instruments, making the Deep Impact observing campaign one of the most successful of its kind, and thereby, ensuring the greatest scientific outcome.

From the current analysis, it appears most likely that the impactor did not create a large new zone of activity and may have failed to liberate a large quantity of pristine material from beneath the surface.

The images obtained at the VLT show that after the impact, the morphology of Comet Tempel 1 had changed, with the appearance of a new plume-like structure, produced by matter being ejected with a speed of about 700 to 1000 km/h (see ESO PR Photo 23/05). This structure, however, diffused away in the following days, being more and more diluted and less visible, the comet taking again the appearance it had before the impact. Further images obtained with, among others, the adaptive optics NACO instrument on the Very Large Telescope, showed the same jets that were visible prior to impact, demonstrating that the comet activity survived widely unaffected by the spacecraft crash.

The study of the gas in Comet Tempel 1 (see "Looking for Molecules"), made with UVES on Kueyen (UT2 of the VLT), reveals a small flux increase the first night following the impact. At that time, more than 17 hours after the impact, the ejected matter was fading away but still measurable thanks to the large light collecting power of the VLT. The data accumulated during 10 nights around the impact have provided the astronomers with the best ever time series of optical spectra of a Jupiter Family comet, with a total of more than 40 hours of exposure time. This unique data set has already allowed the astronomers to characterize the normal gas activity of the comet and also to detect, to their own surprise, an active region. This active region is not related to the impact as it was also detected in data collected in June. It shows up about every 41 hours, the rotation period of the comet nucleus determined by the Deep Impact spacecraft. Exciting measurements of the detailed chemical composition (such as the isotopic ratios) of the material released by the impact as well as the one coming from that source will be performed by the astronomers in the next weeks and months.

Further spectropolarimetric observations with FORS1 have confirmed the surface of the comet to be rather evolved - as expected - but more importantly, that the dust is not coming from beneath the surface. These data constitute another unique high-quality data set on comets.

Comet Tempel 1 may thus be back to sleep but work only starts for the astronom

More information

On July 4, 2005, the NASA Deep Impact spacecraft launched a 360 kg impactor onto Comet 9P/Tempel 1. This experiment is seen by many as the first opportunity to study the crust and the interior of a comet, revealing new information on the early phases of the Solar System. ESO actively participated in pre- and post-impact observations. Apart from a long-term monitoring of the comet, for two days before and six days after, all major ESO telescopes - i.e. the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Array at Paranal, as well as the 3.6m, 3.5m NTT and the 2.2m ESO/MPG telescopes at La Silla - have been observing Comet 9P/Tempel 1, in a coordinated fashion and in very close collaboration with the space mission’ scientific team. The simultaneous use of all ESO telescopes with all together 10 instruments has an enormous potential, since it allows for observation of the comet at different wavelengths in the visible and infrared by imaging, spectroscopy and polarimetry. Such multiplexing capabilities of the instrumentation do not exist at any other observatory in the world.

More information is available at the dedicated Deep Impact at ESO web site.

Notes

[1]: Leading scientists of the ESO DI campaign: H. Boehnhardt (MPI, Lindau, Germany), O. Hainaut (ESO), H.U. Kaufl (ESO), H. Rauer (DLR, Germany).

Members of the ESO DI observing team on site: N. Ageorges (ESO, Chile), S. Bagnulo (ESO, Chile), L. Barrera (UMCE, Chile), H. Boehnhardt (MPS, Germany), T. Bonev (Astr. Inst. Sofia, Bulgaria) , O. Hainaut (ESO, Chile), E. Jehin (ESO, Chile), H.U. Kaufl (ESO, Germany), F. Kerber (ESO, Germany), J. Manfroid (U.Liège, Belgium), O. Marco (ESO, Chile), E. Pantin (CEA, France), E. Pompei (ESO, Chile), H. Rauer (DLR, Germany), C. Sterken (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium), G.P. Tozzi (Obs. Arcetri, Italy), M. Weiler (DLR, Germany)

Members of the ESO DI observing team not on site: C. Arpigny (U.Liège, Belgium), A. Cochran (McDonald, USA), C. Delahodde (Univ. Florida, USA), Y. Fernandez (Univ. Hawaii, USA), D. Hutseme kers (U.Liège, Belgium), H. Kawakita (Gunma, Japan), J. Knollenberg (DLR, Germany), L. Kolokolova (Univ. Maryland, USA), M. Kretlow (MPS, Germany), M. Kueppers (MPS, Germany), E. Kuehrt (DLR, Germany), L. Lara (IAA, Spain), J. Licandro (IAC, Spain), C. Lisse (Univ. Maryland, USA), K . Meech (U.Hawaii, USA), R. Schulz (ESTEC, The Netherlands), G. Schwehm (ESTEC, The Netherlands), M. Sterzik (ESO, Chile), J.A. Stüwe (Leide n, The Netherlands), I. Surdej (Univ. Liège, Belgium and ESO, Garching), D. Wooden (Ames, USA), J.-M. Zucconi (Besancon, France).

[2]: This image is a of the CN (388 nm) spectrum of comet Tempel 1 observed from Paranal just before the impact (in black), the 03 of July (at UT 02:00), and the 04 of July at UT 24:00 (in red), which is the first observation after the impact. An artificial wavelength shift has been added for clarity. The post impact spectrum is clearly higher than the pre-impact one.

Olivier Hainaut | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hq.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2005/pr-19-05.html
http://www.eso.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte
17.08.2018 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

nachricht Protecting the power grid: Advanced plasma switch for more efficient transmission
17.08.2018 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

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: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>