They’re calling it a “peanut with jets”…Comet Hartley 2, discovered 26 years ago by astronomer Malcolm Hartley, received a brief but fascinating visit today by NASA’s EPOXI spacecraft at 10:01 am EDT. Images were received on Earth half an hour later, and I assembled these initial 5 close-ups into the rough animation above. (Click to play.)
The Sun is to the right in these images and the comet’s jets can be seen issuing from numerous sites on the end facing it.
“This is a type of moment that scientists live for, to get new results in such a dramatic fashion. The images are clear, taken as spacecraft was approaching, then as it swung past and moved away.”
– Don Yeomans, JPL
One and a quarter miles long, Hartley-2 is the fifth comet to have been visited by a spacecraft. It’s estimated that it will last another 700 years or so before disintegrating.
Also, Emily at The Planetary Society has made an animation of this as well….check it out!
Image credit: NASA. (Animation by J. Major.)