Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stardust sees NASA-created crater on comet

Stardust/NEXT flew close by Comet Tempel 1 yesterday (within 200 km) and grabbed some great images and other science data. The big prize, though, was an image of the crater made in the nucleus when NASA's Deep Impact mission blasted into the comet in 2005. The results of that mission indicate the nucleus is more fragile than expected. The crater is still very clear, and squadrons of particles, compared to flak, are still streaming off and gave Stardust/NEXT some chancy moment,s even though the spacecraft was shielded.

The spacecraft is on its second life: it performed its original mission of collecting cometary particles and sending them in a capsule down to Earth, and then it was reprogrammed and sent to Image Tempel 1.

Amazing stuff!

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