Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hartley's Comet

Five years ago a probe operated by JPL fired a projectile into a comet and took pictures of the results. It was actually a bit disappointing to watch because the resulting plume was so bright in the sunlight that it blinded the camera and all we saw was a white screen. I guess they learned a lot from the analysis of that plume but to me it is still amazing that we can launch a rocket from here and hit a bulls eye several million miles away. I thought that was the end of "Deep Impact" (that was the name of the probe) so imagine my excitement when I heard that this morning the probe came within a few hundred miles of yet another comet called Hartley's comet. The probe was actually headed for another comet named 85P/Boethin but that comet suddenly disappeared one day. They figure it must have broken up. They then redirected the probe towards this comet. The comet had such an erratic and unpredictable orbit that they had to put it on autopilot and let it home in on the brightest object around (not counting the sun of course). It did a pretty good job don't you think? Hartley's comet is about 1.35 miles across and is quite small as far as comets go.

More than 40,000 tons of matter enters earths atmosphere every year. Most of that matter is in the form of small particles less than a few millimeters in diameter.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Wow! Amazing. Sometimes modern technology still baffles my mind.