Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NASA Craft Snaps Pics of Comet Tempel 1

Nearly six years after an 800-pound copper bullet excavated a crater on a comet, a NASA spacecraft revisiting the site has seen evidence of the destruction in images snapped during a Valentine's Day flyby, scientists said Tuesday. Instead of a well-defined pit, the Stardust craft saw what looked like a crater rim that was filled in the middle — a sign that the plume of debris from the 2005 high-speed crash that created the crater shot up and fell back down.

"The crater was more subdued than I think some of us thought," said mission scientist Pete Schultz of Brown University. "It partially buried itself." Stardust zoomed past Tempel 1 Monday night, passing within 110 miles of the comet's surface. Along the way, it snapped six dozen pictures. It was NASA's second visit to Tempel 1, but the first time a spacecraft had imaged the manmade crater.

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