Posts Tagged ‘103P/Hartley 2’

Comet Elenina “smells” like bitter almonds


M. Drahus, University of California at Los Angeles; Bin Yang, University of Hawaii; and J. Hoge, Joint Astronomy Centre, report the detection of HCN (Hydrogen cyanide) in comet C/2010 X1 on July 30 when at heliocentric distance r = 1.07 AU. Observations between July 30.153 and 30.249 UT at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope show the J = 4-3 line with area about 0.1 K km/s in antenna temperature scale. Assuming an isotropic production of gas at velocity 0.5 km/s and a Boltzmann distribution of energy levels at 50 K, the derived HCN production rate is 1.5 x 1025 molecules/s, comparable to the mean level measured in comet 103P/Hartley at the same heliocentric distance in late 2010 (Drahus et al. 2011, Ap.J. 734, L4). (subscription required).

Successful completion of the EPOXI mission

On November 4th exactly at the appointed time, the Deep Impact spacecraft made a close flyby of the nucleus of Comet 103P/Hartley 2. At the moment of closest approach the distance to the comet was all of 700 km, which allowed for the most detailed pictures of a comet’s nucleus in the history of spacecraft studies of such objects. The spacecraft flew by the nucleus at a speed of 12.3 km/sec, having taken five stunning images.

In the pictures, craters covering the surface of the nucleus and powerful jets of material blasting out into space are clearly visible. It is worth noting that before this flight scientists knew the basic shape of the nucleus – an assymetrical dumbbell. These data were obtained from radar observations of the comet’s nucleus made at the end of October with the aid of the gigantic 300 meter Arecibo radio telescope. The results obtained after data processing and analysis, were fully confirmed on November 4!

The size of the nucleus of Comet 103P/Hartley 2 turned out to be rather small, 2.2 x 0.5 km. At the upper left you can see the relative sizes of all the comet nuclei which have been studied during a close flyby of a spacecraft. The first investigation of a comet nucleus by direct flyby was accomplished in 1986. Its target was Halley’s comet. In all, detailed images have been obtained for five comets (1P/Halley, 19P/Borrelly, 81P/Wild 2, 9P/Tempel 1, 103P/Hartley 2). Moreover, three comets were studied by the same spacecraft – Deep Impact.

Now we await what will happen with the mission of this spacecraft in the future; will its existence come to an end or will it be directed to a new target?

(Russian) Комета 103P/Hartley 2 обзавелась слабым хвостом

The first image of 103P/Hartley 2 by EPOXI spacecraft

On Sunday, Sept. 5, NASA’s EPOXI  spacecraft (formerly Deep Impact) was obtained the first of more than 64,000 images it’s expected to take of comet 103P/Hartley 2. This first image of comet Hartley 2 taken by Deep Impact was taken by the spacecraft’s Medium Resolution Imager when the spacecraft was 60 million kilometers (37.2 million miles) away from the comet. The rendezvous with 103P scheduled on Nov. 4, 2010.

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