March 15, 1986 was a pleasant day for astronomer Malcolm Hartley, according to Yahoo!News. He had the opportunity to peruse recent photographs of the solar system, and discovered what appeared to be a new comet. Even though he already had one comet to his credit, the new comet had to have been a heart-thumping experience. Credit for the discovery resulted in the comet’s name: Comet Hartley 2.
Comet Hartley 2: Race for the Sun
Like every object in space, there is a rotation around its sphere of influence. According to Wired Science, Comet Hartley 2 is believed nearly a mile wide, and spends nearly 6- ½ years wandering before it zips around the sun. It seems appropriate for it to drop by this year as it heads towards the sun, since we are having so much other celestial activity.
For those with telescopes, the comet is visible now across the world. The green-cast comet is providing a photographic opportunity for those with cameras accompanying their telescopes. If you lack a telescope, it is possible to use binoculars to see Comet Hartley 2. There will be no moon October 20, which enables a view to nearly anyone.
The comet will pass about eleven million miles from Earth. A comet passing this close to Earth only occurs about four times in a century. This is good news for the casual stargazer, because the comet will be visible with the naked eye during early to mid-October. For additional information on Comet Hartley 2, please see Emma Vine’s article here.
Deep Impact: Stalking the comet; shooting as it goes
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is thrilled about the close approach of Comet Hartley 2. NASA’s spacecraft, Deep Impact, is already taking pictures of the comet. Space.com reports the first picture, taken September 5, captured the comet when the spacecraft was a distance of 37 million miles away.
NASA anticipates more than 64,000 images will be taken and sent to Earth by November 4 compliments of spacecraft Deep Impact. The craft will fly within 435 miles of the comet’s nucleus. It is the fifth time a spacecraft has been close enough to image a comet’s core. Deep Impact will continue to stalk Comet Hartley 2 through December.
Deep Impact is part of NASA’s dual science investigative mission: Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EPOCh), and Deep Impact Extended Investigations (DIXI). The broad mission uses the talents of both, and has the acronym of EPOXI.
Is there any truth to the rumor regarding possible NASCAR heritage in production materiel
I believe that Deep Impact was a NASCAR racecar in a previous life. My opinion is supported by its slingshot maneuver in June, when it sped past the Earth to use its gravity for a speed boost towards Comet Hartley 2. One has to be an incredible NASCAR driver or vehicle to accomplish that feat with the expertise demonstrated by Deep Impact.
Look to the skies. Contact your local astronomy club or university for any updates on comet or meteor activity. Visit Alexis Madrigal’s video, Cold Little Comet is no match for big, hot sun, for a closer view of what Comet Hartley 2 will be seeing very soon.
Joe Rao, Comet and Earth to have Rare Close Encounter
Lisa Grossman, Closer Encounter coming with Ghostly Green Comet
Space.com, Comet-bound spacecraft beams back first photo of icy target