04 November 2010

Close Encounters with a Comet

Artist Sketch of EPOXI
On November 4, 2010, NASA successfully completed a mission for with a repurposed EPOXI spacecraft to come within 485 miles from the Comet Hartley 2.  NASA originally was trying to cross paths with comet 85P/Boethin two years ago but that comet disappeared, so the rocket scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California set their sights on the Haley 2.

HD Photo of Hartley 2 Comet 11/04/10
Hartley 2 is a relatively small comet with three quarter mile core of rock and ice, but it is unusual for the large amounts of dust and gas that it spews on its path towards the sun.

The EPOXI team will be sifting through the 6,000 high definition photos of the close encounter with the comet to discern what accounts for the wide range and shape of comet nuclei.  The scientists may find some important clues about how the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago, possibly with a Big Bang.

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