National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Facebook Twitter YouTube Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr iTunes
Follow Us
Deep Impact in the News
Press Kits  |  Media Group  |  Deep Impact in the News 

Press - Deep Impact in the News

NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft Eyes Comet ISON
5 Feb 2013
(Source: NASA/JPL)

[[IMAGE||comet20130205-full_720.jpg||center||This is the orbital trajectory of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). The comet is currently located just inside the orbit of Jupiter. In November 2013, ISON will pass less than 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from the sun's surface. The fierce heating it experiences during this close approach to the sun could turn the comet into a bright naked-eye object Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech||FILE:comet20130205-full.jpg||This is the orbital trajectory of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). The comet is currently located just inside the orbit of Jupiter. In November 2013, ISON will pass less than 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from the sun's surface. The fierce heating it experiences during this close approach to the sun could turn the comet into a bright naked-eye object Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech||720]] PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft has acquired its first images of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). The images were taken by the spacecraft's Medium-Resolution Imager over a 36-hour period on Jan. 17 and 18, 2013, from a distance of 493 million miles (793 million kilometers). Many scientists anticipate a bright future for comet ISON; the spaceborne conglomeration of dust and ice may put on quite a show as it passes through the inner solar system this fall. "This is the fourth comet on which we have performed science observations and the farthest point from Earth from which we've tried to transmit data on a comet," said Tim Larson, project manager for the Deep Impact spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The distance limits our bandwidth, so it's a little like communicating through a modem after being used to DSL. But we're going to coordinate our science collection and playback so we maximize our return on this potentially spectacular comet." Deep Impact has executed close flybys of two comets - Tempel 1 and Hartley 2 - and its mission scientists, led by University of Maryland Astronomer Michael A'Hearn, have performed scientific observations on two more - comet Garradd and now ISON. The ISON imaging campaign is expected to yield infrared data, and light curves (which are used in defining the comet's rotation rate) in addition to visible-light images. A movie of comet ISON was generated from initial data acquired during this campaign. Preliminary results indicate that although the comet is still in the outer solar system, more than 474 million miles (763 million kilometers) from the sun, it is already active. As of Jan. 18, the tail extending from ISON's nucleus was already more than 40,000 miles (64,400 kilometers) long. Long-period comets like ISON are thought to arrive from the solar system's Oort cloud, a giant spherical cloud of icy bodies surrounding our solar system so far away its outer edge is about a third of the way to the nearest star (other than our sun). Every once in a while, one of these loose conglomerations of ice, rock, dust and organic compounds is disturbed out of its established orbit in the Oort cloud by a passing star or the combined gravitational effects of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. With these gravitational nudges, so begins a comet's eons-long, arching plunge toward the inner solar system. ISON was discovered on Sept. 21, 2012, by two Russian astronomers using the International Scientific Optical Network's 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope near Kislovodsk. NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, based at JPL, has plotted its orbit and determined that the comet is more than likely making it first-ever sweep through the inner solar system. Having not come this way before means the comet's pristine surface has a higher probability of being laden with volatile material just spoiling for some of the sun's energy to heat it up and help it escape. With the exodus of these clean ices could come a boatload of dust, held in check since the beginnings of our solar system. This released gas and dust is what is seen on Earth as comprising a comet's atmosphere (coma) and tail. ISON will not be a threat to Earth - getting no closer to Earth than about 40 million miles on Dec. 26, 2013. But stargazers will have an opportunity to view the comet's head and tail before and after its closest approach to the sun -- if the comet doesn't fade early or break up before reaching the sun. Launched in January 2005, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft traveled about 268 million miles (431 million kilometers) to the vicinity of comet Tempel 1. On July 3, 2005, the spacecraft deployed an impactor that was essentially "run over" by the nucleus of Tempel 1 on July 4. Sixteen days after comet encounter, the Deep Impact team placed the spacecraft on a trajectory to fly past Earth in late December 2007. This extended mission of the Deep Impact spacecraft culminated in the successful flyby of comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4, 2010. In January of 2012, the spacecraft performed, from a distance, an imaging campaign on comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd). To date, Deep Impact has traveled about 4.39 billion miles (7.06 billion kilometers) in space. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Deep Impact mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The University of Maryland is the Principal Investigator institution for the mission. Deep Impact is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. For more information about Deep Impact, visit: [[LINK||http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/deepimpact||http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/deepimpact]].
Associated Video: [[IMAGE||EMBED:http://www.youtube.com/embed/OsUqEpK325A||center||Video of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) by Deep Impact||[NULL]||||This series of images of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) was taken by the Medium-Resolution Imager of NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft over a 36-hour period on 17 and 18 Jan. 2013.||720,450]]
DC Agle 818-393-9011 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. agle@jpl.nasa.gov Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726 NASA Headquarters, Washington Dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov 2013-047

More News Articles

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 28 Jun 2010