PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 22 (UPI) — A NASA probe heading for a rendezvous with a comet has sent back the first pictures of its target, scientists in California say.
The new photo is the first of 64,000 or so NASA’s Deep Impact probe is expected to take of comet Hartley 2, the agency said in a release.
“Like any tourist who can’t wait to get to a destination, we have already begun taking pictures of our comet, Hartley 2,” Tim Larson, the mission’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.
“We have to wait for Nov. 4 to get the close-up pictures of the cometary nucleus, but these approach images should keep the science team busy for quite some time as well.”
Hartley 2, discovered in 1986, is thought to be about a mile across and makes a complete orbit around the sun about every 6-1/2 years.
During its two-month approach to the comet, Deep Impact will use all three of its instruments — two telescopes with digital color cameras and an infrared spectrometer — to scrutinize the comet, described as a cosmic snowball.
The observations and measurements Deep Impact collects will give scientists the best-ever view of a comet’s journey through the inner solar system, NASA said.
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