July 2005

Comet Tempel 1 Quickly Returns to Normal

July 18, 2005

Of the many things demonstrated by the Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1, the evolution of astronomy is not the least significant. Gone are the days of the isolated mountain-top observer painstakingly examining photographic plates whose findings might be corroborated only weeks or months later by other astronomers. During the Deep Impact mission, the […]

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Planet of the Triple Suns

July 13, 2005

A planet with three suns in its sky staggers the imagination — how can a stable orbit exist for such a world? In fact, the only references are science fictional, which is why Maciej Konacki, a senior postdoctoral scholar in planetary science at Caltech, refers to the first such planet to be found as a […]

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Hyperion: An Other-Worldly Rubble Pile

July 12, 2005

Each new world we visit offers a different perspective on how planets and their moons form. Consider Saturn’s moon Hyperion, the density of which now appears to be only about 60 percent that of solid water ice. What that means is that much of the moon’s interior — 40 percent or more — is made […]

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New Work on NASA Interstellar Probe

July 11, 2005

Designing a mission to interstellar space is a long-term process. Indeed, NASA’s early work on the concept dates back to studies like the Interstellar Precursor Mission developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1977, and the later Thousand Astronomical Unit mission, both designed to penetrate as far as 1000 AU into nearby interstellar space. These […]

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Cometary Dust a Fine Powder

July 9, 2005

Tempel 1, the comet that slammed into the Deep Impact probe on July 4, is three miles wide by seven miles long, and evidently coated with a fine, powdery dust. That dust, says Deep Impact principal investigator Dr. Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland, is more like talcum powder than beach sand. “The major […]

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Seeing Terrestrial Worlds from Earth

July 8, 2005

Big mirrors make all the difference in optical astronomy. A 100 meter telescope (compensating for atmospheric disturbances) could separate two points on the moon two meters apart. Compare that to the 95 meters the Hubble Space Telescope can resolve and you can see that there is a case for Earth-based optical searches for planets around […]

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New World Casts Light on Planetary Formation

July 7, 2005

A planet circling the star HD 149026 is certainly not the most massive extrasolar world we’ve discovered. But it does take honors on one count: it boasts the largest solid core ever found. Detected by a consortium of American, Japanese and Chilean astronomers, the planet is roughly equal to Saturn in mass though significantly smaller […]

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‘An Incandescent Photo Flash’

July 6, 2005

Scientists now believe that Deep Impact’s 820-pound impactor vaporized deep inside comet Tempel 1’s surface when the collision took place on July 4. Moving at 23,000 miles per hour, the impact would have been severe, generating temperatures of several thousand degrees Kelvin, and creating what Dr. Pete Schultz of Brown University calls “…our own incandescent […]

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Initial Results from Deep Impact

July 5, 2005

The Hubble images below (click to enlarge) give an idea of the size of the Deep Impact event. At left is the comet Tempel 1 before the collision. In the middle image, taken 15 minutes after impact, the comet is four times brighter than before and shows a substantially increased cloud of dust and gas. […]

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‘A Spectacular Impact’

July 4, 2005

Deep Impact gave mission scientists what they bargained for — and more– when its impactor collided with comet Tempel 1 last night. The collision occurred at 0152 EDT (0652 GMT), with the first image returning at 0157. Calling the impact ‘spectacular,’ principal investigator Dr. Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park added, “”With […]

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