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Also surprising was the superabundance of crystalline silicates, material formed only at red-hot temperatures found inside the orbit of Mercury. It implies there was a great deal of churning in the primordial solar system, with high- and low-temperature materials mixing over great distances. Planets, comets and asteroids were all born out of a thick and dusty mix of chemicals that surrounded the young Sun.

Because comets formed in the outer, colder regions of our solar system, some of this early planetary material remains frozen inside them. By refining their list of comet ingredients, theoreticians can begin testing models of planet formation.

Deep Impact: A Comet-Hunting Mission | Space

More than 80 telescopes on and above Earth observed Deep Impact's rendezvous with Tempel 1, and their findings are shedding light on the comet's broader history in the solar system. Lisse's team is also comparing Spitzer's discoveries with those from NASA's Stardust mission, which last January returned particles from the coma or atmosphere of comet Wild 2 back to Earth. Twelve of the 14 species found by Spitzer match up with preliminary Stardust analyses, Lisse says, but several mysteries remain.

For example, the Stardust samples do not yet include definitive evidence of the carbonate and clay minerals found in Tempel 1. We'll need additional missions to comets -- such as robotic landing spacecraft or sample-return probes -- to help us complete the picture. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center. JPL handled project management for the Deep Impact mission.

Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News. The impactor is powered during its brief solo flight by a single amp-hour battery. The computer and avionics interface box are similar to those on the flyby spacecraft; star trackers, inertial reference units and many propellant subsystem components are the same on both spacecraft. Like the flyby spacecraft, the impactor has a group of thrusters to refine its flight path.

Because of its brief mission, the impactor does not have redundant backups as does the flyby spacecraft. The impactor's single scientific instrument, called the impactor targeting sensor, is an imaging system identical to the medium-resolution instrument on the flyby spacecraft, but without a filter wheel. A centimeter-diameter 4. The spacecraft was comprised of two parts: the main flyby spacecraft and an impactor. The flyby spacecraft weighed 1, pounds kilograms , was solar powered and carried two primary instruments.

The high-resolution instrument HRI , the main science camera for Deep Impact, was one of the largest space-based instruments ever built for planetary science.

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It combined a visible-light multi-spectral CCD camera with a filter wheel and an imaging infrared spectrometer called the spectral imaging module SIM. There were some initial moments of anxiety when it was discovered that the spacecraft had automatically entered safe mode shortly after entering heliocentric orbit. By Jan. The spacecraft traveled million miles million kilometers in six months including course corrections on Feb. As the spacecraft approached its target, it spotted two outbursts of activity from the comet June 14 and June 22, On July 3, , at UT or UT Earth-receive time , Deep Impact released the impactor probe, which, using small thrusters, moved into the path of the comet, where it hit the following day, July 4, at UT.

The probe was traveling at a relative velocity of about 23, miles per hour 37, kilometers per hour at the time of impact. The impact generated an explosion the equivalent of 4.

Scientists Gaining Clearer Picture Of Comet Makeup And Origin

Minutes after the impact, the flyby probe passed the nucleus at a range of about miles kilometers at UT July 3 and took images of the crater although it was obscured by the dust cloud , ejecta plume, and the entire nucleus. Simultaneous observations of the impact were coordinated with ground-based observatories as well as space-based ones, including the European Rosetta which was about 50 million miles or 80 million kilometers from the comet , Hubble, Spitzer, the Swift X-ray telescope, and XMM-Newton.

The impactor also took images up to 3 seconds before impact that were transmitted via the flyby vehicle back to Earth. Controllers registered about 4, images from the three cameras over the next few days. On July 21, , Deep Impact was set on a trajectory to conduct a flyby of Earth in anticipation of intercepting Boethin.

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Unfortunately, scientists lost track of Comet Boethin, possibly because the comet had broken up. Before the second Earth flyby, Deep Impact performed its EPOCh mission using the HRI instrument to perform photometric investigations of extrasolar planets around eight distant stars, returning nearly , images. In the fall of , Deep Impact began its investigations of Comet Hartley 2, conducting its flyby of the target at a range of about miles kilometers at UT Nov.

As with the encounter with Comet Tempel 1, Deep Impact used its three instruments to study Hartley 2 for three weeks. The data showed that the two lobes of Hartley 2 were different in composition. Once past this second cometary encounter, Deep Impact had little propellant for further cometary investigations, but there was a possibility that the spacecraft, if still in working condition, could be used for a flyby of Near Earth Asteroid GT in With that goal in mind, thrusters were fired in December and October for targeting purposes.

Communication with Deep Impact was lost sometime between Aug. Siddiqi, Asif A.

Launch Date Jan. Accomplishments After almost nine years in space that included an unprecedented 4th of July impact and subsequent flyby of a comet, an additional comet flyby, and the return of approximately , images of celestial objects, NASA's Deep Impact mission ended in September Here are the mission team's top five: First determination that a comet's surface layer few to 10 meters or so is very porous greater than 75 percent empty space First direct evidence showing chemical diversity of outgassing associated with different parts of the cometary nucleus Discovered that hyperactive comets percent of all comets are driven by carbon dioxide and that the observed excess water is from icy grains in the coma.

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The processes of hyperactive comets are very different from those in normal comets. Observations led to re-thinking where in the solar system comets formed. Contrary to all thinking for the last half century, the Jupiter family comets must have formed closer to the sun than did the Oort cloud comets.

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