Thursday, June 30, 2005

Having an Impact

If you cannot ascertain from the name of this blog, I will tell you that in addition to computer science and psychology I am interested in space exploration, astronomy and climatology.   On July 4th NASA is attempting to crash part of a space probe into the comet Tempel 1, with the main craft recording the event.  If all goes well the craft will be placed on an extended mission with its next probable target the comet Boethin. It will take 3.5 years to get there.  So even if you read this after July 4th  2005, there is still more to explore with this probe.

A frequent contributor to this blog and former student, Greg Horvath works at JPL on this project and sent me this heads up a few days ago.  I wanted to share Greg's logbook entry with you.  The text was provided by Greg with some minor edits from me.  Actually there was more interesting stuff on testing in his entire email, but I will save that for another post.  Later!

So, on to the fun stuff:

- We release the impactor Saturday evening, 7/2, at 11pm PDT (2am 7/3, Sunday morning EDT).
- Assuming all goes well, the impactor will arrive at the comet at 10:52pm PDT on Sunday night (1:52am EDT Monday 7/4).

In addition to the instruments on-board the spacecraft, we will have a number of other on-orbit telescopes taking both visible and spectral images (Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer f/k/a SIRTF) as well as many ground observatories including Keck, Palomar, and the SMA.  There will be plenty of gooey data to check out if this goes off as planned.

Our mission website has a schedule of programming
As of right now, the schedule is:
Deep Impact Press Encounter Events - Jul. 1 - 4
(All times PDT.)

    * Pre-impact briefing: July 1, 10 a.m.
    * Pre-impact update: July 3, 11 a.m.
    * NASA TV coverage: July 3, 8:30 p.m.
    * Expected time of impact: July 3, 10:52 p.m.
    * Post-impact briefing: July 4, 1 a.m.
    * Post-impact press conference: July 4, 11 a.m.

Also, there is some animation and a few videos over at  Click on 'Night of the Comet', and it will launch a little flash player.  (In fact if you click the picture of the woman under the 'Videos' tab of the flash player, you can see me near the beginning of the clip being a big dork.)

As I've mentioned, we will be on NASA TV, which you can stream online at  (see times above).  I'll be on-console for impact so if you tune in you may see me pointing to a blue screen and doing other amusing geeky stuff.

Other good sources of info are:
(This site usually has good real-time info updated during critical mission events).  Also, our mission webpage will be updated in near real time during encounter, including images as they come down.

Lastly if you're in the SoCal area, the Planetary Society will be holding an event with real-time data streaming in and running commentary.  More info here:
It's in Glendora, and entry is $20.  There will be some guest speakers as well.

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