Feeds

We used to be afraid of comets, now it's their turn

What's a little hyperbole between friends?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

When NASA's Deep Impact probe hits the comet Tempel-1 on 4 July, there are several possible outcomes.

The impactor will be released around 24 hours ahead of its scheduled crash. On Monday morning at 04:52 (GMT) the fly-by craft will make a minor course correction to make sure it misses the comet's nucleus.

The impactor will make course corrections too, at 90 minujtes, 30 minutes and 12.5 minutes before impact. The probe is scheduled to hit at 06:52, and pictures from the fly by craft should arrive at NASA's HQ 7.5 minutes later.

The most likely result of the crash is that the impact of the 360kg probe will form a gravity-controlled crater around 20-30m deep, and around the size of a football stadium. It might also form a muc small compression-crater, which would result in the release of far less material.

However, there are some other scenarios that are possible, although far less likely. The probe could split, or shatter the nucleus; or it could even pass straight through the middle.

Dr. Andrew Coates from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL, speaking today at the British Festival of Space 2005, in Birmingham, said that the kind of collision really doesn't matter.

"We know so little about comets that almost anything we learn from the collision will be useful," he said.

"What is definite is that material will be evolved from the comet. In 15 minutes, approximately one month's worth of gas will be released from Tempel-1."

There is, however, no danger that the comet will be sent off course and hurtling towards Earth. Coates explains that the collision is the equivalent of a mosquito ramming into a Boeing 767 plane, so although it will be a powerful impact, it will have little or no effect on the path of the comet.

"We used to be afraid of comets. The dinosaurs should have been afraid of comets. Now it is the comet's turn to be afraid," Coates said. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.