January 18 and 19, the first pictures taken by the spacecraft Stardust of its mission to return to the nucleus of Comet Tempel 1 were received. The pictures were taken by the spacecraft’s navigation camera from a distance of 26.3 and 25.4 million km. In two weeks, February 14th, the spacecraft will pass 200 km from the nucleus of the comet with the goal of photographing the results of the bombardment in July of 2005 by another spacecraft, Deep Impact.
At the time of the flyby it is planned to take 72 detailed photographs of the surface of the comet and compare them with the pictures from 5.5 years ago. An analysis of the results of the crash of the impactor into the nucleus of the comet will allow us to better understand where and of what the comets of the Jupiter family formed, as well as the physical-mechanical properties of their surfaces.
The encounter of the spacecraft and comet will take place 337 million km from Earth.