Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hartley 2: First Photo of Maybe 64,000

"Comet-Bound Spacecraft Beams Back First Photo of Icy Target" (September 21, 2010)

"A NASA comet probe has beamed back to Earth its first photo of its quarry, Comet Hartley 2.

"NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft is zooming toward the comet, snapping pictures in the lead-up to a planned flyby of the ice ball on Nov. 4. The new photo is the first of 64,000 or so the probe is expected to take of Hartley 2.

" 'Like any tourist who can't wait to get to a destination, we have already begun taking pictures of our comet, Hartley 2,' Tim Larson, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. 'We have to wait for Nov. 4 to get the close-up pictures of the cometary nucleus, but these approach images should keep the science team busy for quite some time as well.'..."

The photo itself isn't as stunning as the new Hubble image. There's a lot of bright spots that are stars and a biggish bright spot that's Hartley 2. That, and some lines and letters are about it.

Still - that's a comet, photographed by a robot spaceship that's set to take thousands more photos.

'Deep Impact?' Where's the Impact?

There's a pretty good explanation for the spaceship that's doing a flyby of Hartley 2 being called "Deep Impact." The craft's original mission was being the mother ship for the 2005 Deep Impact mission to Comet Tempel 1. After that mission, the mother ship was still in good operating condition: so NASA set it off on another comet-related mission, this time to Hartley 2.

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