On July 4th at 1:52 AM Eastern Standard Time, a massive probe launched by NASA is scheduled to forcibly collide at the speed of 23,000 mph with the comet Tempel 1. This very intriguing project is part of the Deep Impact project, and it is hoped that the images transmitted by the probe will afford new insights into conditions in the early solar system. So far, the closest that scientists have come to a comet was when a previous NASA mission probe passed with 167 miles of the comet Wild 2 in 2004. The information sent back from the probe and its mothership will at the very least hopefully answer some basic questions about comets, such as whether or not comets are comprised of compact matter or more akin to snow cones. Needless to say, astronomers are becoming quite excited about the prospects of seeing such an event, though it is highly unlikely that the average observer on Earth will be able to see much without a well-trained telescope.The first link offered here is from Tuesday's New York Times, and provides some very thoughtful insights into this important mission. The second link leads to a USA Today article on the nature of the Deep Impact project, along with an animated look at Deep Impact's upcoming encounter with Tempel 1. The third link leads to a Chicago Sun-Times piece about the “kaboom” effect of this portentous meeting between probe and comet. The fourth link leads to a San Jose Mercury News news article that discusses the efforts of astronomers to view this historic event. The fifth link leads to the very fine homepage developed by NASA to provide extensive information about the Deep Impact mission, complete with visualizations, short video clips, and technical information. The final link leads to a similar type of site offered by the people at Space.com.


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