NASA’s Deep Impact Fly-by of Comet Hartley 2 *or* The Revenge of Deep Impact

As if it wasn’t cool enough that NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft passed within 435 miles of Comet Hartley 2 about 10 a.m. EST on Thursday, November 4, soon after it turned its high-speed antenna toward Earth to beam back the photos it had taken.

And now some enterprising YouTuber has made what’s described as a “morph animation” of the close approach images. The comet approaches slowly and in perfect silence, just as if you were there with it in deep space.

The Deep Impact spacecraft officially completed its mission in 2005 after it visited the comet Tempel 1, letting loose an 800-pound piece of equipment that crashed into that comet as it passed by. The collision allowed scientists to identify some of the minerals beneath the surface of Tempel 1.

But the spacecraft still had plenty of maneuvering fuel left, so NASA approved a second mission, called Epoxi, that included a visit to a second comet. Three years ago, the mission had to shift course when the comet it was aiming for, Comet Boethin, could not be found. The backup target was Hartley 2.

This is animation of a comet is very cool, especially because in the novel I’m outlining this month two comets play very important roles…

– S.