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Stardust-NExT and Comet 9P/Tempel

14 Feb 2011, 14:43 UTC
Stardust-NExT and Comet 9P/Tempel
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In the next few hours, precisely on February 14 at 20:48 PST (February 15 at 04:48 UTC), the Stardust spacecraft will have a flyby with the comet 9P/Tempel (also known as comet Tempel 1).Stardust is a robotic space probe launched by NASA on February 7, 1999 to study the asteroid 5535 (Annefrank) and collect samples from the coma of comet Wild 2. After Stardust successfully completed his main mission, it was approved in 2007 an extension to redirect the probe to explore the comet 9P/Tempel. The mission was renamed "New Exploration of Tempel 1" or "NExT".Comet 9P/Tempel was the target of the Deep Impact mission in 2005 as the comet was inbound toward the Sun on its approximately 5.5-year orbit between Mars and Jupiter, sending an impactor into the surface of the comet. The impact and the ejected material were observed from the spacecraft and many ground-based observers.The 2005 head-on collision of comet 9P/Tempel and the Deep Impact impactor (Credit: NASA)Animation of the 2005 Deep Impact on 9P/Tempel(Credit: NASA)During the flyby (at a projected distance of 200 km), Stardust-NExT will image some of the same surface areas that Deep Impact photographed 6 years ago, revealing how these areas have changed. ...

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