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Deep Impact Takes A Powder

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After successfully maneuvering an 820 pound probe into the path of a comet from 83 million miles distant, scientists wonder where the heck all that powder came from.

A cloud generated by the successful impact of the probe on the surface of comet Tempel 1 indicates the comet was covered with “powdery stuff,” according to NASA.

“The major surprise was the opacity of the plume the impactor created and the light it gave off,” said Deep Impact Principal Investigator Dr. Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park.

“That suggests the dust excavated from the comet’s surface was extremely fine, more like talcum powder than beach sand. And the surface is definitely not what most people think of when they think of comets — an ice cube.”

NASA says the flyby craft, which carried and released the impactor probe, is in excellent shape. It is now over two million miles from the comet and moving away from it.

The probe’s collision with the comet released a rapidly-expanding cloud of dust, which led to the bright “flash” seen in early photos after the impact took place.

Are comets really just really huge cosmic dust bunnies, then?

“You have to think of it in the context of its environment,” said Dr. Pete Schultz, Deep Impact scientist. “This city-sized object is floating around in a vacuum. The only time it gets bothered is when the Sun cooks it a little or someone slams an 820-pound wakeup call at it at 23,000 miles per hour.”

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

Deep Impact Takes A Powder
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