Feeds

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

What's a little hyperbole between friends?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
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?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.