Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2005 July 5
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Thirteen Seconds After Impact
Credit: Univ. Maryland, JPL-Caltech, NASA

Explanation: Fireworks came early on July 4th when, at 1:52am EDT, the Deep Impact spacecraft's probe smashed into the surface of Comet Tempel 1's nucleus at ten kilometers per second. The well-targeted impactor probe was vaporized as it blasted out an expanding cloud of material, seen here 13 seconds after the collision. The image is part of a stunning series of frames documenting the event from the high resolution camera onboard the flyby spacecraft. Tempel 1's potato-shaped nucleus is approximately 5 kilometers across as seen from this perspective. Cameras onboard the impactor probe were also able to image the nucleus and impact site up-close ... until about 3 seconds before the impact. Of course, telescopes nearer to planet Earth followed the event, detecting a significant brightening of comet Tempel 1.

Tomorrow's picture: before impact

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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