Feeds

Comet Tempel-1 covered in cosmic talc

Dusty

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Infographic

The first data from the Deep Impact mission to Comet Tempel-1 suggest that the comet is covered in a layer of fine powder. When the probe slammed into the comet on 4 July, the impact released an immense cloud of dust, probably as fine as talcum powder, NASA says, leaving a crater between 50 and 250 metres in diameter.

When the impactor hit the comet, it hit at a 25 degree angle to the comet's surface, NASA says. Almost immediately it was vaporised and along with surface and sub-surface material from the comet was ejected back away from the wandering Tempel-1.

The plume of material expanded above the impact site at around 3.1 miles per second. Deep Impact Principal Investigator Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland explains that the opacity and amount of light reflected by the plume are clues to the size of the dust particles.

"[It] suggests the dust excavated from the comet's surface was extremely fine, more like talcum powder than beach sand. And the surface is definitely not what most people think of when they think of comets - an ice cube," he added.

On its way to the surface, the Deep Impact impactor was hit by two coma particles, which knocked the cameras out of alignment for a short period before the craft's attitude control got it back on track.

The research team is currently analysing over 4,500 images taken by the Deep Impact flyby craft and the impactor itself. The images reveal features on the surface of the comet that are only four metres in diameter. This is a factor of ten better than any previous observations of comets, A'Hearn says. ®

Related stories

Astrologer sues NASA for Tempel 1 'moral trauma'
Deep Impact makes an impression on Tempel-1
Deep Impact en route to Tempel 1

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.