Feeds

NASA's Deep Impact mislays comet

Boethin goes awol

New hybrid storage solutions

NASA has cancelled a scheduled liaison between its Deep Impact spacecraft and Comet 85P/Boethin because the latter has disappeared without trace, New Scientist reports.

Deep Impact completed its principal mission back in 2005, when it fired a 360kg probe into Comet Tempel-1 in an attempt to deduce the body's composition.

It then set off for a late 2008 hook-up with Boethin, a body which has been spied only twice, "first when it was discovered during a close approach to the Sun in 1975, and again during a second close passage in 1986".

It was supposed to put in an appearance in 1997 on another approach to the Sun, but may have escaped detection from Earth due to it being behind the star's glare. In October, astonomers deployed various telescopes including the Very Large Telescope array in Chile, and that at Hawaii's Subaru observatory to track it down, without sucess.

Quite what has happened to Boethin remains a mystery. While it may have broken up during its 1997 approach, Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, chief scientist for the Deep Impact mission, said such a heat-provoked disintegration was unlikely since it "never comes closer to the Sun than just beyond Earth's orbit".

He told New Scientist: "Disappearing in the sense of breaking up and dissipating is actually very rare. If it disappeared, then that is fascinating in itself - only one other comet has done that in recent memory."

The previous self-destructing comet in question was Linear-S4, which fell apart and disappeared back in 1990.

A'Hearn says it's more likely that Boethin "broke into a few large chunks that are still intact but have drifted too far from the original comet's orbit to have been spotted in searches to date". More plausible still is that since Boethin has only been seen twice, scientists did not correctly predict its trajectory and the telescopes have been looking in the wrong place.

Whatever the case, NASA will now send Deep Impact off for a meeting with Comet Hartley 2, around the same size as Boethin at 1.6km, although more active. The planned encounter will take place in 2010. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Boffins: Behold the SILICON CHEAPNESS of our tiny, radio-signal-munching IoT sensor
Single ant-sized Stanford chip combines radio, 'puter, antenna
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
TROUT and EELS in SINISTER PACT to RULE the oceans
Slimy chums form deadly alliance to sweep seas
Drones swarm over bearded Brit billionaire's island getaway
Just to take lovely pictures though, after Richard Branson invests in 3D Robotics
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
California blue whale numbers soar to historical levels, say boffins
Still far too many of them being struck by US ships, mind
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
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.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
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.