November 4th, 2010
08:18 AM ET

Close encounter with comet today

This fantastical NASA illustration captures the spirit of Thursday's EPOXI fly-by.

A spacecraft will have the closest encounter ever with a comet at 10 a.m. ET today, and NASA is providing live coverage.

NASA's EPOXI spacecraft will pass just 435 miles (700 kilometers) from the nucleus of comet Hartley 2, acquiring data with two imagers and an infrared instrument.

This is an actual image of Hartley 2 taken by the EPOXI spacecraft.

"We are really looking forward to this because the comet has shown so many surprises, both in the data from EPOXI and the data from our many collaborators, over the last several months," EPOXI principal investigator Mike A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a NASA release.

Live coverage beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will be broadcast on NASA Television's Media Channel.

A post-flyby news briefing is planned for 4 p.m. ET.

Scientists and engineers were getting the spacecraft's instruments and the data center on Earth ready Wednesday as EPOXI closed in on Hartley 2.

"The last 1 million kilometers are always the hardest," quipped Tim Larson, EPOXI project manager from JPL. "But we've prepared thoroughly for this day and are confident that come [Thursday] morning, we'll be getting the kind of data and imagery that will keep our scientists busy for months to come."

The EPOXI team expects to begin receiving imagery from the spacecraft starting about 30 minutes after closest approach, according to NASA. The first images received will be those that were taken when the spacecraft was 18 hours out from the comet. They will depict the comet nucleus as little more than a point of light with a fuzzy coma, a gaseous cloud, surrounding it. A few of the close-approach images should be received on the ground one hour after the event occurs.

"Those early images may not be the 'money shot,' but we on the science team will prize them just as well, as they will help us further understand the nature of comets," said A'Hearn.

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Filed under: Space
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. brylle of NASA

    gooluck epoxi,.. t – 33 minutes

    November 4, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Mikey

      Where are the parachutes?

      November 4, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Anna

    I love this stuff, I only wish I had the NASA channel.

    November 4, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. Frank

    It's good to see NASA still has other Programs work on to keep them slightly active. With the Shuttle Program coming to an end a lot of people are going to be put out of work.To now have to rely on the Russians to get to basicaly the Space Station the U.S. built and funded is beyond stupid it is dangerous.
    I keep hearing and reading how great a visionary our current President is,if he can not see the millions of jobs that could be created by a new Space Shuttle,Moon and Mars Program in the U.S. and around the World the he is not as sharp as the media make him out to be.I personaly worked on the two Mars Rover Programs and I can tell you there were thousands of manufacturers and suppliers involved employing tens of thousands of people.Again,with the Space Shuttle Program ending,thousands of people will be losing their jobs.

    November 4, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • MuDdLe

      I don't understand kicking the space program to the curb.

      November 4, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dictionary

    Make sure to get her good side, the bad side is kinda sharp.
    (Reading through the 'bone found' blog, I found notations about my sick, animalistic comments...? Not me. A poser. I try to keep my nasty thoughts in my colon where they belong... or somewhere under my toenails. I'll always be posting on the bright side – if for no other reason than to provide a little balance around here.)

    November 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. James Boyd

    Geez, it sure is nice if people have jobs, but it would be a whole lot nicer if those jobs meant something real to the world we live in. Anybody can do anything,Space exploration is nice entertainment when you can afford it.Your country hasn't established its finances.The first thing is to feed people, the next is to allow the middle class a place to live without a global economic meltdown or trying to make money off of them for stupid rich associates.Maybe if we work clean, affordable energy rather than build debt constantly by buying foreign oil we could develop plasma shooting engines and move slight amounts of space to relegate light speed to the dust bin.Someday to be MaKiNg mOney by mining asteroids.Shine the Light-–>

    February 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |