First Photo! NASA Deep Impact Spacecraft Eyes Comet Target

September 8th, 2010

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/UMD

Sixty days before its flyby, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft has snapped a picture of its quarry – comet Hartley 2.

The spacecraft is on track for a November 4 flyby of the comet, ready to inspect Hartley 2 for over two months.

The spacecraft is on an extended mission known as EPOXI.

By the way, EPOXI is super short for a combination of names: Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh), and the flyby of comet Hartley 2, called the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI).

“Like any tourist who can’t wait to get to a destination, we have already begun taking pictures of our comet — Hartley 2,” advised Tim Larson, the project manager for EPOXI from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“We have to wait for November 4 to get the close-up pictures of the cometary nucleus, but these approach images should keep the science team busy for quite some time as well,” Larson added.

This first image of comet Hartley 2 was obtained on September 5 when the spacecraft was 60 million kilometers (37.2 million miles) away from the comet.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the EPOXI mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. 

The University of Maryland, College Park, is home to the mission’s principal investigator, Michael A’Hearn.

The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/UMD


3 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Warner says:

    The triangles are due to the PSF (point spread function) of the MRI. And that is due to the way the MRI primary is mounted.
    (I’m the mission webmaster and asked one of the scientists.)

  2. Pawn says:

    What is with all the triangles? That is a pretty odd diffraction pattern. Tracking?

  3. Georg Felis says:

    Good thing we have dumb computers on these spacecraft. Smart ones would say “Alert! Object detected on collision course! Initiating evasive maneuvers.” 🙂