NASA spacecraft clicks closest view ever of comet Tempel 1

February 16th, 2011 - 11:53 am ICT by ANI  

London, Feb 16 (ANI): NASA spacecraft Stardust flew within 112 miles of the Tempel 1, revisiting a comet at close range for the first time in the history of space exploration.

It zoomed past at 24,000 miles an hour at 4.37am this morning, taking 72 high-resolution pictures as planned.

According to NASA’s Chris Jones, all the images are stored on the craft and it will take another six hours for everything to be downloaded because the craft’s antenna was pointed away from Earth during the encounter.

The photos will let researchers compare how Tempel 1 looks now with its appearance in 2005 when a probe from the Deep Impact craft was deliberated slammed into it.

The hardest part was waiting to see ‘all the goodies that are stored on board’ Stardust, said principal investigator Joe Veverka, a professor of astronomy at Cornell University.

The photos will also help the experts understand whether or not its landscape was caused by internal changes or the impact of asteroids. They also want to determine if depressions on the crater could have been caused by ice that was stored underground and turned into gas.

“Here’s a chance where we can see what has changed, how much has changed, so we’ll start unravelling the history of a comet’s surface,” the Daily Mail quoted Veverka as telling the New York Times.

“We have no idea whether we’re talking about things that have been there for a hundred years, a thousand years, a million years.”

“I’ll be on the edge of my seat. But I think it’s important to emphasise that that aspect of the mission is bonus science,” said Steve Chesley, a researcher at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (ANI)

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