Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What's Inside A Comet? Brown Geologist Helps NASA Find Out

Date:
July 4, 2005
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
On July 4, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will witness fantastic fireworks when comet Tempel 1 slams into a space probe at 23,000 miles per hour. Brown University professor and NASA mission member Peter Schultz will help analyze collision data to determine what's inside this primordial ball of ice.

Peter Schultz, Professor of Geological Sciences at Brown University, is a leading expert in impact cratering and a partner in the Deep Impact mission.
Credit: Image courtesy of Brown University

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- When comet Tempel 1 collides with a NASA space probe in the early morning hours of July 4, 2005, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory expect some holiday sizzle – a brilliant flash and a dramatic spray of debris.

This cosmic collision will create a crater exposing Tempel 1’s interior. Like all comets, Tempel 1 consists of the frozen remains of material that formed the solar system. But what, precisely, is this stuff? How is it put together? Peter Schultz, crater expert, will help find out.

Schultz is a professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a leading expert in impact cratering, the science of what happens when a massive, fast-moving cosmic train slams into something. His work helps explain when and how comets, asteroids and other space travelers shaped the face of planets such as Earth and Mars, as well as the Moon and other satellites.

Schultz’s expertise landed him a spot in the inner scientific circle for “Deep Impact,” the joint space mission coordinated by the Jet Propulsion Lab and the University of Maryland. Schultz is one of 13 co-investigators overseeing the mission, which will provide a first-ever look inside a comet when scientists release an impactor into Tempel 1’s path for a planned collision.

“This is heady stuff,” Schultz said. “The ice inside comets has been in the deep freeze since the creation of the solar system. Now we are finally going to see what this stuff looks like and what it is made of. This is important information. Comets may have been the messengers that carried the ingredients of life to Earth.”

To prepare for the mission, Schultz ran dozens of experiments at NASA’s Ames Vertical Gun Range in California. Using a machine three stories tall, Schultz fired marble-size beads into surfaces of dust, ice and snow. The beads – which travel more than 10 times faster than a speeding bullet – made craters of all shapes and sizes. Working with different combinations of ice, snow and dust in various thicknesses, Schultz recorded the trajectory of flying debris as well as crater size and speed of formation.

These observations will be important for Deep Impact. Cameras and an infrared spectrometer aboard an orbiter will record the Tempel 1 collision, relaying images and data during creation of the crater which can be used to determine the comet’s composition.

“We know comets are like dirty snowballs,” Schultz said. “But is the crust thick or thin? Is the interior light or dense? By running these scenarios, we can make better predictions when the real impact happens.

“Comets were made 4.5 billion years ago, yet remain such mysteries,” he said. “Now we’re going to get our closest look at one. That’s why this project is cool.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brown University. "What's Inside A Comet? Brown Geologist Helps NASA Find Out." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 July 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050703230308.htm>.
Brown University. (2005, July 4). What's Inside A Comet? Brown Geologist Helps NASA Find Out. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050703230308.htm
Brown University. "What's Inside A Comet? Brown Geologist Helps NASA Find Out." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050703230308.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil. It has announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
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