Comet Tempel 1 Now in StardustNeXT

The first image of comet Tempel 1 taken by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft is a composite made from observations on Jan. 18 and 19, 2011. The panel on the right highlights the location of comet Tempel 1 in the frame. On Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14 in U.S. time zones), Stardust will fly within about 200 kilometers (124 miles) of the comet’s nucleus. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s comet ahoy! for the Stardust spacecraft, which is on its way to a Valentine’s Day meetup with comet Tempel 1. The images above were taken on Jan. 18 and 19 from a distance of 26.3 million kilometers (16.3 million miles), and 25.4 million kilometers (15.8 million miles). On Feb. 14, Stardust will fly within about 200 kilometers (124 miles) of the comet’s nucleus and for the first time we’ll get a second closeup look at Tempel 1.

“We were there in 2005 with the Deep Impact spacecraft, said Stardust-NExT Project Manager Tim Larson, speaking on today’s 365 Days of Astronomy podcast, “and this is a golden opportunity. It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to revisit a comet on a second pass near the sun.” (…) Read the rest of Comet Tempel 1 Now in StardustNeXT’s Field of View (632 words)

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