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8 trail-blazing images from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

By: Katherine Butler on Jan. 4, 2012, 8:47 a.m.
Impact of Comet Tempel 1

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD/A. Delamere

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Impact of Comet Tempel 1

Deep Impact is a NASA space probe launched in 2005 with a team including members from JPL. Its initial mission was to investigate the inner contents of the Comet Tempel 1 by releasing an impactor into the comet, and on July 4, 2005, the impactor successfully collided with the comet. Here the impact is shown using the Hardcandy IDL color table. According to NASA, “The nucleus of the comet is visible in blue and maroon and the impact flash is ringed in multiple colors, reflecting the decrease in flash intensity further from the site of impact.” The mission was such a success that NASA decided to use the Deep Impact spacecraft for the EPOXI mission. EPOXI’s purpose is to investigate extrasolar planets and the comet Hartley 2. NASA points out that on Nov. 4, 2010, EPOXI conducted an extended flyby of comet Hartley 2.