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Emily LakdawallaFebruary 15, 2011

High-res images of Tempel 1 from Stardust now arriving

I really didn't expect these images to look so good! I'd prepared myself for blurry images and a lot of squinting to try to match up features in pictures between Deep Impact and Stardust views of Tempel 1, but in fact the resemblance is obvious and you can clearly see that they successfully imaged the area in which Deep Impact's Impactor craft collided with the comet.

You can see all the images here; they're still updating the page as images come down from the spacecraft, and we haven't seen the closest-approach ones yet. But here is the highest-resolution one so far, which I've rotated 90 degrees so it's a little closer to the orientation of the views from Deep Impact:

Stardust view of Tempel 1, just before closest approach

NASA / JPL / Cornell

Stardust view of Tempel 1, just before closest approach
Stardust snapped this view of comet Tempel 1 on February 15, 2011 at 04:38 UTC, just before its close flyby.

Those two dark-rimmed circular featires near the center are familiar to any fan of Deep Impact -- the impactor smashed down somewhere in between them, or so it's thought. I have to say the crash site is not particularly obvious in this photo!

Here, as a reminder, is an animation containing the Deep Impact Impactor camera's final views of the comet:

Animation of the Deep Impact into Tempel 1

NASA / JPL / U. Maryland / Emily Lakdawalla

Animation of the Deep Impact into Tempel 1
This video was assembled from 36 images taken by the impactor's camera, and twelve taken by the flyby spacecraft's camera.

And here's a high-res mosaic of the area near the impact site, again from Deep Impact:

The pitted surface of Tempel 1


The pitted surface of Tempel 1
This view of the nucleus of comet Tempel 1 is composed of many frames captured from different ranges by Deep Impact's Impactor spacecraft as it approached for its July 4, 2005 encounter. Images of the whole comet nucleus were taken from a greater distance and so are blurrier; highest resolution images were captured of the bottom half of the nucleus. The crash site was between the two circular features at the center of the image, which are thought to be impact craters.

Hooray for Stardust! I'm going to be noodling around with these photos all morning! I have to convey my heartfelt thanks to the science team for being willing to share the pictures before their press briefing, which has been delayed until the afternoon (no firm time set yet) so that they will have time to examine the pictures before they have to talk about them.

Stay tuned; there's much more to come from Stardust!

Read more: comets, comet Tempel 1, Stardust

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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