Deep Impact at ESO


July 15, 2005: Read the post-impact interview with Olivier Hainaut, one of the lead scientist involved in the Deep Impact at ESO campaign.

July 14, 2005: Ten days after part of the Deep Impact spacecraft plunged onto Comet Tempel 1, astronomers returned to the ESO Offices in Santiago. They spent more than a week observing at the ESO La Silla Paranal Observatory. In this unprecedented observing campaign — among the most ambitious ever conducted by a single observatory — the astronomers collected a large amount of invaluable data on this comet. It appears most likely that the impactor did not create a large new zone of activity and may have failed to liberate a large quantity of pristine material from beneath the surface. Read more and see the latest images showing the evolution of the comet in eso0503.

See some examples of data collected during the ESO Campaign on the Impact page.

False-colour image of Comet Tempel 1 observed with FORS2 on the VLT during the night of 3–4 July, 2005. The image shows the solar light reflected on the cometary dust partciles. It is a combination of four images taken with broadband filters selecting different colours in visible light.

Previous ESO observations

Older news is available here.

To see previous ESO observations of the Comet Tempel 1, go to the Observations page.

Ground-based campaign

Pre- and Post-Impact Amateur Image

Comparison between an image taken on July 4, 2005, 0:00 CEST and one taken 2 days later. Image taken in Stuttgart (Germany) by Stefan Seip. He writes:"on the "after" image there is maybe a slight increase in brightness visible. Clearly visible is the asymmetric coma, as compared to the "before" image."

Meet the Scientists

Interviews with lead scientists of the DI Campaign at ESO: Hermann Boehnhardt, Ulli Käufl, and Olivier Hainaut.


See images of Comets here


Why don't you try to do your own crater?

On July 4, 2005, the NASA Deep Impact spacecraft will visit Comet 9P/Tempel 1. It will launch a 360 kg impactor that should produce a crater on the surface of the comet and a plume of gas and dust.

This experiment will be the first opportunity to study the crust and the interior of a comet. As the material inside the comet's nucleus is pristine, it will reveal new information on the early phases of the Solar System. It will also provide scientists with new insight on crater physics, and thereby give a better understanding on the crater record on comets and other bodies in the Solar System. The scientific outcome of the experiment depends crucially on pre-impact and follow-up observations.

ESO will actively participate in the post-impact observations. As soon as Comet 9P/Tempel 1 is visible after the impact from Chile , and for a whole week thereafter, all major ESO telescopes - i.e. the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Array at Paranal, as well as the 3.6m, 3.5m NTT and the 2.2m ESO/MPG telescopes at La Silla - will be observing Comet 9P/Tempel 1, in a coordinated fashion and in very close collaboration with the space mission' scientific team. Among all observatories, the ESO La Silla Paranal Observatory will thus provide the best coverage of this one of its kind event.

First images of ESO telescopes will be obtained shortly after midnight - European time - on the night of July 4 to 5 and will be directly made available on this web site.


Off on a Comet

Hector Servadac ("Off on a Comet" in the English edition) by Jules Verne. Published in 1877, i.e. 10 years after the discovery of Comet 9P/Tempel 1, this book relates the story of French Captain Hector Servadac and his servant Ben Zoof that are ripped from the Earth by a passing comet. There are soon joined by others to make up a small colony. They find refuge in a volcano located on the comet and use it to survive the long journey acros the solar system. In one episode they discover a fragment of the Rock of Gibraltar, occupied by two Englishmen playing chess. Read the full text of this wonderful story in the Electronic Texts Collection. A must in 2005, the year we celebrate this great French author.

Read all about the Deep Impact mission, Comets, the history of their study in the Background section. Or see some examples of other comets.

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