The Deep Impact (EPOXI) spacecraft flew within 435 miles of Comet Hartley 2 earlier this month (November 4) and captured some great images of the comet – like nothing seen before.
This NASA probe first gained fame in July 2005, when it shot a projectile into Comet 9P/Tempel 1, then studied the kicked-up debris to see what this comet was made of. Now it has taken thousands of photos of Comet Hartley 2. Go you spacecraft!
After 2005, Deep Impact had been given the additional name EPOXI, a contraction of Extrasolar Planet Observation and Deep Impact Extended Investigation. Although four comets (Halley, Tempel 1, Borrelly and Wild 2) have been studied with spacecraft thus far, NASA scientists were particularly excited about Comet Hartley 2.
As it came close to our sun and Earth, this small comet displayed much more activity than the others, spewing forth lots of dust, spinning jets and gas. Hence this stunning gallery of images – Comet Hartley 2 – up close and personal.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.