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Emily LakdawallaJuly 4, 2005

Deep Impact Comet Crash Produces Great Big Comet Flash

The Deep Impact mission seems to have produced an impact crash beyond the expectations, but not the hopes, of the science team. "Obviously it was a very big impact, presumably we have a large crater," said a weary but triumphant Principal Investigator A'Hearn.

This video was assembled from 36 images taken by the impactor's camera, and twelve taken by the flyby spacecraft's camera.

Deep Impact’s comet crash

NASA / JPL / UMD / Gordan Ugarkovic

Deep Impact’s comet crash
This animation shows the first minute of the evolution of the impact plume that blasted off of comet Tempel 1 following the Deep Impact Impactor spacecraft's crash. It consists of 30 frames from the flyby craft's high-resolution imager, which suffered from a blurring problem. Images were only moderately deconvolved to reduce this blur (the primary idea was to show plume evolution, not nucleus details; deconvolution increases noise in otherwise smooth areas without really bringing out detail) and slightly processed to bring out plume details.

A'Hearn was not ready to report many science results, but he could say the following: "The closeup images from the impactor targeting sensor have a scale of about 7 meters [25 feet] per pixel. We've gotten the highest resolution images of a comet ever. The impactor was perfect. The flyby instruments also worked beautifully. We got tremendous spectra, really strong spectral features, and great thermal spectra. The flight team has just completed most of its work, we are just starting our work now. Interpreting the ejecta cone is going to take a bit of time. There is lots of structure in it that is of interest to interpreting the nature of the comet. I look forward to the wealth of data that will take me to retirement."

Following the impact, the flyby craft had a perilous passage through the comet's coma, but it appears to have passed that trial with flying colors as well. "The flyby craft is doing great. It came out of shield mode with not a bit of damage," reported Keyur Patel, Deep Impact Deputy Project Manager.

A'Hearn promised that the results of the mission would only get better. "As we were sending the images off to be prepared for this press briefing we were of course still watching the images coming down. There are many more spectacular images yet to be revealed."

The next press breifing is scheduled for later this morning, at 11:00 PDT (18:00 UTC).

Read more: mission status, comets, comet Tempel 1, Deep Impact

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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