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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

NASA Releases Images of Man-Made Crater on Comet

News release: 2011-056 February 15, 2011

NASA Releases Images of Man-Made Crater on Comet

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Stardust spacecraft returned new images of a comet showing a scar
resulting from the 2005 Deep Impact mission. The images also showed the comet has a fragile and
weak nucleus.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to comet Tempel 1 on Monday, Feb. 14, at 8:40 p.m. PST
(11:40 p.m. EST) at a distance of approximately 178 kilometers (111 miles). Stardust took 72 high-
resolution images of the comet. It also accumulated 468 kilobytes of data about the dust in its coma,
the cloud that is a comet's atmosphere. The craft is on its second mission of exploration called
Stardust-NExT, having completed its prime mission collecting cometary particles and returning them
to Earth in 2006.

The Stardust-NExT mission met its goals, which included observing surface features that changed in
areas previously seen during the 2005 Deep Impact mission; imaging new terrain; and viewing the
crater generated when the 2005 mission propelled an impactor at the comet.

"This mission is 100 percent successful," said Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator of
Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. "We saw a lot of new things that we didn't expect, and we'll be
working hard to figure out what Tempel 1 is trying to tell us."

Several of the images provide tantalizing clues to the result of the Deep Impact mission's collision
with Tempel 1.

"We see a crater with a small mound in the center, and it appears that some of the ejecta went up and
came right back down," said Pete Schultz of Brown University, Providence, R.I. "This tells us this
cometary nucleus is fragile and weak based on how subdued the crater is we see today."

Engineering telemetry downlinked after closest approach indicates the spacecraft flew through waves
of disintegrating cometary particles, including a dozen impacts that penetrated more than one layer of
its protective shielding.

"The data indicate Stardust went through something similar to a B-17 bomber flying through flak in
World War II," said Don Brownlee, Stardust-NExT co-investigator from the University of
Washington in Seattle. "Instead of having a little stream of uniform particles coming out, they
apparently came out in chunks and crumbled."

While the Valentine's Day night encounter of Tempel 1 is complete, the spacecraft will continue to
look at its latest cometary obsession from afar.

"This spacecraft has logged over 3.5 billion miles since launch, and while its last close encounter is
complete, its mission of discovery is not," said Tim Larson, Stardust-NExT project manager at JPL.

"We'll continue imaging the comet as long as the science team can gain useful information, and then
Stardust will get its well-deserved rest."

Stardust-NExT is a low-cost mission that is expanding the investigation of comet Tempel 1 initiated
by the Deep Impact spacecraft. The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and
manages day-to-day mission operations.

The latest Stardust-Next/Tempel 1 images are online at:

More information about Stardust-NExT is at: .gov .



Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling

Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

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