Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hubble Captures Outburst From Comet Targeted By Deep Impact

Date:
June 28, 2005
Source:
ESA/Hubble Information Centre
Summary:
In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet. The images are a reminder that Tempel 1's icy nucleus, roughly the size of central Paris, is dynamic and volatile. Astronomers hope the eruption of dust seen in these observations is a preview of the fireworks that may come 4 July, when a probe from the Deep Impact spacecraft will slam into the comet, possibly blasting off material and giving rise to a similar dust plume.

Comet 9P/Temple June 14, 2005. Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Feldman (Johns Hopkins University), and H. Weaver (Applied Physics Lab)

In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet.

The images are a reminder that Tempel 1's icy nucleus, roughly the size of central Paris, is dynamic and volatile. Astronomers hope the eruption of dust seen in these observations is a preview of the fireworks that may come 4 July, when a probe from the Deep Impact spacecraft will slam into the comet, possibly blasting off material and giving rise to a similar dust plume.

These observations demonstrate that Hubble's sharp "eye" can see exquisite details of the comet's temperamental activities. The Earth-orbiting observatory was 120 million kilometres away from the comet when these images were taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys’ High Resolution Camera. The telescope's views complement close-up images being taken by cameras aboard Deep Impact, which is speeding toward the comet.

The two images, taken seven hours apart on 14 June, show Tempel 1 and its new jet. The image at left, taken at 7:17 a.m. (UT), is a view of the comet before the outburst. The bright dot is light reflecting from the comet’s nucleus, which appears star-like in these images because it is too small even for Hubble to resolve. The nucleus, a potato-shaped object, is 14 kilometres wide and 4 kilometres long. Hubble’s viewing the nucleus is as difficult as someone trying to spot a potato in Stockholm from Madrid.

The photo at right, snapped at 14:15 a.m. (UT), reveals the jet [the bright fan-shaped area]. The jet extends about 2,200 kilometers, which is roughly the distance from Copenhagen to Athens. It is pointing in the direction of the Sun. Comets frequently show outbursts in activity, but astronomers still don't know exactly why they occur. Tempel 1 has been moving closer to the Sun, and perhaps the increasing heat opened up a crack in the comet's dark, crusty surface. Dust and gas trapped beneath the surface could then spew out of the crack, forming a jet. Or, perhaps a portion of the crust itself was lifted off the nucleus by the pressure of heated gases beneath the surface. This porous crust might then crumble into small dust particles shortly after leaving the nucleus, producing a fan-shaped coma on the sunward side. Whatever the cause, the new feature may not last for long.

Astronomers hope that the July 4 collision will unleash more primordial material trapped inside the comet, which formed billions of years ago. Comets are thought to be ‘dirty snowballs’, porous agglomerates of ice and rock that dwell in the frigid outer boundaries of our solar system. Periodically, they make their journey into the inner solar system as they loop around the Sun.

The contrast in these images has been enhanced to highlight the brightness of the new jet.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ESA/Hubble Information Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

ESA/Hubble Information Centre. "Hubble Captures Outburst From Comet Targeted By Deep Impact." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 June 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050627233151.htm>.
ESA/Hubble Information Centre. (2005, June 28). Hubble Captures Outburst From Comet Targeted By Deep Impact. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050627233151.htm
ESA/Hubble Information Centre. "Hubble Captures Outburst From Comet Targeted By Deep Impact." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050627233151.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins