Comet fireworks for 4th of July

stubeeef

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Aug 10, 2004
2,702
2
This is just soooooooo cool.

The comet impacter sent up by NASA will send its projectile to impact a comet in the wee hours of the 4th of July est. It should be visable from Calf to NY (Calf late on the 3rd, after midnight on morning of the 4th). We will need atleast binoculars and of course clear skies. Read the link.

Link

In early July, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will deploy a tiny impactor to smash into the nucleus of a small comet. The idea is to excavate a sizable crater and provide valuable insight into the true nature of comets.

For skywatchers here on Earth, it should also produce a large cloud of ejected material that should cause the comet to significantly brighten enough to become visible with binoculars and perhaps even with the unaided eye.

The comet that has been chosen for the task was discovered by a Frenchman in the mid-19th century. Known as Comet Tempel 1, it already has a rather checkered history. Soon, however, it will go down in history books.

Finding the target

During June, Comet Tempel 1 will be gliding on a south-southeast course through the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin. The comet will have already made its closest approach to the Earth in early May at a distance of 66 million miles (106 million kilometers).

Although it is now moving away from the Earth, the comet is still approaching the Sun, so its overall brightness in the coming days and weeks will appear to change very little, if at all. The comet is expected to hover at around tenth-magnitude, meaning that it will glow about 40 times dimmer than a star that is at the threshold of visibility with the unaided eye.

So, to successfully locate it, you will need three things:

A star chart with the comet's projected path plotted on it.
A good telescope and of course,
A dark, unpolluted night sky.
During the next several weeks, Virgo and the comet will be over in the west-southwest part of the sky as darkness falls and setting soon after midnight, local daylight time.

The night of impact

The Deep Impact spacecraft is expected to arrive near Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, one day before the comet reaches perihelion (its closest point to the Sun). It will have released its copper impactor about 24 hours before, while making a "deflection maneuver" to move off to a safe distance of about 300 miles (500 kilometers) from the comet.

The table-sized, 820-pound (372-kilogram) impactor is scheduled to smash into the comet's nucleus at 23,000 mph (37,000 kilometers) per hour, creating a crater perhaps 670 feet (200 meters) wide and 50 meters deep, at around 6 hours Universal Time on July 4. That time corresponds to the late evening hours of July 3 for the west coasts of the United States and Mexico.

Along the west coast of Canada, the Sun will either be setting, or it will be twilight. Dusk will also be falling for Hawaii and New Zealand. As the Earth rotates over the next 24 hours, the rest of the world will be turned toward a view (weather permitting) of the comet.

At the moment of impact, Comet Tempel 1 will be situated about 3 degrees to the east-northeast of the bluish first-magnitude star, Spica. For comparison, your fist on an outstretched arm covers about 10 degrees of sky.

So what will we see? That's the $64,000 question. Nobody can really say for sure.
 

wdlove

macrumors P6
Oct 20, 2002
16,570
0
This sounds very exciting. For the first time in history we may have natural fireworks. The most important thing is that the projectile will make contact with the comet. Hopefully it will provide a rich source if data for the scientists to study.
 

Mr. Anderson

Moderator emeritus
Nov 1, 2001
22,407
0
VA
Very cool stuff - but its a shame its going to require binoculars.

I remember a few years back there was a guy who wanted to take all the unused ICBMs, launch them and have them explode in space for a global fireworks display....

D
 

stubeeef

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Aug 10, 2004
2,702
2
Mr. Anderson said:
I remember a few years back there was a guy who wanted to take all the unused ICBMs, launch them and have them explode in space for a global fireworks display....

D
Now that would be a move in the right direction, and the fireworks would be awesome. Just gotta watch moving the moon! Tide changes and all. :p
 

Mr. Anderson

Moderator emeritus
Nov 1, 2001
22,407
0
VA
The Past said:
The countdown has begun! Six days and five hours and the webcast will be on. Can't wait.
It sucks that I'll be away from a internet connection when this happens....hopefully I'll be able to see it when I get back.

D
 

MacSA

macrumors 68000
Jun 4, 2003
1,804
5
UK
Comet targeted by Deep Impact has an outburst

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0506/27deepimpact/

In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet.

I think the biggest challenge of the whole mission is going to be hitting the target.. :eek:
 

Dont Hurt Me

macrumors 603
Dec 21, 2002
6,056
6
Yahooville S.C.
MacSA said:
Comet targeted by Deep Impact has an outburst

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0506/27deepimpact/

In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet.

I think the biggest challenge of the whole mission is going to be hitting the target.. :eek:
Thats a pretty amazing jet, iam surprised by just how large it is and the breifness, like a geyser here on earth.
 

jared_kipe

macrumors 68030
Dec 8, 2003
2,967
1
Seattle
If I was back in Colorado with my Telescope I'd be all over this. But allas, Seattle is too bright, and I've got other things to do July 4th.
 

stubeeef

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Aug 10, 2004
2,702
2
"Weapon Away!"

Looks like a GO!

The $333 million mission is slated to crash an 820-pound (371-kilogram) Impactor probe into Comet Tempel 1 and record the event via the Flyby mothership. The collision is expected to take place at 1:52 a.m. EDT (0552 GMT) on July 4. A cheer went up at 2:16 a.m. EDT (0616 GMT) when a mission controller announced when Deep Impact's mission control received confirmation that the Impactor had separated from the Flyby mothership at 2:07 a.m. EDT (0606 GMT).

"It went like clockwork. Very good, we're very excited. Deep Impact project manager Rick Grammier, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) here, told reporters. The systems were all nominal and we were within half a kilometer of our target point before release and the release went very well."

Researchers hope NASA's Deep Impact mission will not just succeed in ramming a comet, but will punch through Tempel 1's surface and reveal material that has not been seen since the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. They hope Deep Impact will not only yield information about the composition of comets, but also shed light on the make-up of the early solar system.

"The first look at the data indicates that things couldn't have gone better," said Monte Henderson, program manager for Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., the builders of NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft, via e-mail.

Following separation, Flyby completed its divert engine burn and moved safely out of the comet's path. After the initial separation, an alarm went off onboard the Flyby vehicle. Mission controllers ran through a systems check and concluded the spacecraft was on track and the alarm could be ignored.

Grammier said that Flyby did manage to capture and image of Impactor after the release.
Link
 

IndyGopher

macrumors 6502a
Nov 3, 2001
782
1
Indianapolis, IN
jared_kipe said:
If I was back in Colorado with my Telescope I'd be all over this. But allas, Seattle is too bright, and I've got other things to do July 4th.
Sorry.. but it has to be said...

Never in a million years did I expect to see someone say, in all seriousness, "Seattle is too bright". Of course I know what you meant, but it struck me funny. Ahem. Ne'ermind.

Light pollution is a huge problem in great chunks of North America. I'm not even going to bother trying to watch, as I live way too close to an airport which is always lit up
 

MacSA

macrumors 68000
Jun 4, 2003
1,804
5
UK
Please remember that many of the scientists involved with the mission have said that the impact is highly unlikely to be visible to the naked eye.... a large telescope will probably be needed to see any effect of the impact. :)
 

0098386

Suspended
Jan 18, 2005
21,552
2,886
ive been tracking this on Dashboard for a while, then i read it was happening on Monday i looked at the distance left and hah, so close now.

all i need now is a working telescope
 

Doctor Q

Administrator
Staff member
Sep 19, 2002
36,052
3,276
Los Angeles
DIRECT HIT!

Confirmation was received that the impact module hit the comet. The fly-by module should be able to analyze the particles and gas emitted and tell us first-hand what is inside the comet.
 

toneloco2881

macrumors 6502
Jan 23, 2005
357
5
Doctor Q said:
DIRECT HIT!

Confirmation was received that the impact module hit the comet. The fly-by module should be able to analyze the particles and gas emitted and tell us first-hand what is inside the comet.
This is incredible!! On a side note i was watching the live NASA coverage, and noticed nearly everyone had powerbooks... :D
 

joepunk

macrumors 68030
Aug 5, 2004
2,557
13
a profane existence
Watched the progress last night (Pacific Coast time) on the Nasa channel. Exciting to see the probe and it's images live. Just wished the camera person could have been more focused on the action and what the people were cheering about instead of on the scientists and Engineers themselves.

Anyway, I am glad that all went well for the project and happy that nothing went wrong.
 

wdlove

macrumors P6
Oct 20, 2002
16,570
0
wordmunger said:
Okay, here's the coolest image yet: a Quicktime movie from the impact spacecraft's point of view:

link
That video link is awesome. Kudos to NASA for a successful mission. Hope that the craft will provide valuable information, sounds like they have a lot of data to analyze. Were you able to see anything Doctor Q?
 

mrzeve

macrumors 6502a
Jan 25, 2005
614
1
I read an article earlier that a woman is sueing NASA for 300 Million because its her comet or something.
 

emw

macrumors G4
Aug 2, 2004
11,177
0
mrzeve said:
I read an article earlier that a woman is sueing NASA for 300 Million because its her comet or something.
Here's a link to the article.

As for the success of the mission - amazing. Think about what just happened - we sent a probe a couple of million miles into space to hit a relative speck of dust traveling at about 23,000 miles per hour. Wow.

It was cloudy last night, but I'm hoping I'll be able to hook up the telescope tonight to see something.

Also, in other comet news, let's not forget that Stardust will be returning to Earth next year with samples from the Comet Wild 2. That should be interesting...