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Comet 103P/Hartley

3 Nov 2010, 11:40 UTC
Comet 103P/Hartley
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Tomorrow November 04, at 13:50 UTC the Deep Impact spacecraft (renamed EPOXI for this extended mission) will have a close encounter with the comet 103P/Hartley. At closest approach (roughly 700 kilometers), the spacecraft imager named MRI (Medium Resolution Imager) will achieve about 7 meters per pixel, and the nucleus should appear about 170 pixels across. When EPOXI will reaches the comet, it will be nearly 1.1 astronomical units away from the Sun and only 0.15 astronomical units from Earth.Comet 103P/Hartley was discovered by Malcolm Hartley in 1986 at the Schmidt Telescope Unit in Siding Spring, Australia. It belongs to the Jupiter family of comets (orbital period of 6.47 years) and it has a nucleus of about 2 km. So far only 4 comet nucleii have been explored by a spacecraft (Halley, Tempel 1, Borrelly and Wild 2), but comet 103P is unlike the others.Discovery image (1986)According to principal investigator Mike A'Hearn: "Comet Hartley 2 is smaller yet much more active than others comets. Although its core is only 2 km wide—about, a third the size of Tempel 1, it is spewing five times more gas and dust." The EPOXI team observed a strange activity on the comet in September: the ...

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