EPOXI Visits Hartley 2

This morning EPOXI, the spacecraft formerly known as Deep Impact, flew within 435 miles (700 km) of the nucleus of Comet 103P/Hartley 2. Images taken during the encounter are being downloaded from the spacecraft throughout the day. A few of the images have been released by the EPOXI team and can be found here.

The nucleus which is 1.2 miles (2 km) long and only 0.25 miles (0.4 km) wide at its narrowest section resembles a dog bone. In fact, it looks like a contact binary which is an object that consists of 2 main masses held together by gravity. The smooth narrow section being made up of fine material around the contact point. Recent observations suggest this shape may be common among comet nuclei. Comet 8P/Tuttle is known to have this shape and even 1P/Halley may be another example. This  is just conjecture on my part and much better analysis will come from the EPOXI team in the coming days.

Congratulations to the EPOXI team for a job well done not  only with the Hartley 2 flyby but also with the Tempel 1 encounter and the cruise phase extrasolar planet observations!

Close-up image of the nucleus of Comet 103P/Hartley 2 taken with the EPOXI s/c on 2010 Nov 4. Credit: NASA/EPOXI Team/JPL.
Montage of 5 images taken by the EPOXI s/c as it flew past the nucleus of 103P/Hartley 2. Credit: NASA/EPOXI Team/JPL.

6 thoughts on “EPOXI Visits Hartley 2

  1. Bashar Rizk

    The comet appears to be in the process of splitting up or reforming. The “taffy-pull” area between the two larger, apparently mor competent, spherical structures appears to be held in place by a combination of gravity and adhesion (electrostatic van der Waals) forces. The prolific activity would seem to support this notion.

  2. What you are not seeing is, this is a lightstick stuck to an ENORMOUS BLACK OBJECT underneath it. I’ll try to get some resolved photos of the mass to which this cute lit-up drumstick is attached. I’d liken what you can see to the Ten-Forward on Star Trek, is all. The rest of this massive envelope is hidden, but there is an enormous face directly next to the lit monolith. It’s black-on-black-on-black out there. Why aren’t any stars showing?

  3. It’s not a comet at all! It’s an oddly-formed Russian Easter Egg with a lit BIRD ON TOP! Gosh! Astronomers are so gullible, I think I have a cute bridge on the East River I’d like to SELL YOU!

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