Thursday, 4 November 2010

Just look at those jets

At about 2pm GMT today the NASA Deep Impact spacecraft (aka EPOXI) played a game of interplanetary 10-pin. Millions of kilometres from home the craft raced past comet Hartley 2, closing to about 700km (435 miles) away and gathering data and images as it went. The first images of the fly-past are intriguing, exciting and oh so pretty.

What is this strangely shaped object? How did it form? Why are some parts clearly outgassing when other areas do not?

The data gathered by this mission may help to explain, but for now I am content to marvel at the ingenuity of modern science and go wow!

These are just low resolution images. High-res will come in a day or two as the data is downloaded from the probe and processed.
----------------
Image credits: NASA / JPL / UMD

6 comments:

Jillsy said...

I need to get my mind out of the gutter. ;-)

Andy Holroyd said...

No you don't! You are not in any gutter! Like myself, we are standing up enjoying the rain shower.

dave hambidge said...

How long does it take for the data to come back to earth?

Andy Holroyd said...

A long time Dave. I was watching it live on NASA TV and the radio signals seemed to take about 12 mins from the craft to the control room (if I was following the timeline and the clock correctly).

After closest approach the craft spun round to point the high gain antenna at Earth. I heard someone say this gives them about the same data rate as an old 28.8 Kb phone modem.

There were about 200 low-res images in memory and probably the same number in hi-res. Plus all the spectrographic and whatever else data so it will take a couple of days at least to get it all (and a few years to study).

NobblySan said...

Amazing stuff, Andy. It's all too easy to take such things for granted, and to forget just how damn clever some of the engineering and science is that goes into such ventures.

Andy Holroyd said...

Indeed Nobbly. What a team effort too; I was surprised at how many people were involved, the control room was packed with tier after tier of monitor screens.

The biggest cheer came, not when the first close up pictures came in, but when the high gain antenna locked on after a few mins of radio silence as the craft manoeuvred. The guys who had programmed the auto-navigation got hi-fived till it must have hurt!