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Hubble telescope to watch collision in space

Posted on Saturday, June 11 2005 @ 15:59:47 CEST by

Within three weeks the impactor part of the Deep Impact spacecraft will crash into the Tempel 1 comet, after a six months journey in space. The event will be best seen by the Deep Impact fly-by spacecraft, but also Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra and big telescopes on Earth will all follow the collision on July 4.

The comet was created billions of years ago and scientists hope the collision might reveal some of the raw materials from the birth of our solar system. Scientists expect the Deep Impact project will give us a clearer vision on the formation of our solar system.

The crater produced by the impact could range in size from a large house up to a football stadium, and from two to fourteen stories deep. Tempel 1 is moving through space at approximately 37,100 kilometers per hour.

"The important point everyone has to realize is the uncertainty is so large we don't know what to expect," A'Hearn said at a preview briefing Thursday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"It is possible that the change will be so small you can't see it with anything less than a four-meter telescope. It could be much more than that, it could be that you could see the change with binoculars," A'Hearn said. "You just have to be aware of the uncertainty."

"The last 24 hours of the impactor's life should provide the most spectacular data in the history of cometary science," said Deep Impact Principal Investigator Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park. "With the information we receive after the impact, it will be a whole new ballgame. We know so little about the structure of cometary nuclei that almost every moment we expect to learn something new."

Source: SF Gate



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