Chandra observation of comet Tempel 1
Credit: NASA/CXC/C.Lisse & S.Wolk

X-raying a Deep Impact

On July 4 2005 the Deep Impact probe made the first direct hit on a comet, Comet Tempel 1. Comets are believed to be a deep freeze of the unadulterated stuff from the beginning of the solar system. By slamming into Tempel 1, Deep Impact helps astronomers understand the interior composition of Tempel 1, along with a better understanding of the forces which hold comets together, and an understanding of how comets evolve with time. This event was watched with great interest by the entire astronomical community (along with the general public), including the X-ray astronomer community. The image above shows X-rays from Tempel 1 taken by the Chandra X-ray observatory just before the impact. The X-ray emission seen by Chandra is primarily due to the interaction between highly charged oxygen ions in the solar wind and neutral gases from the comet. Chandra also imaged the comet during the impact, and will continue to monitor the comet to study how the ejecta from the impact changes as the comet moves around the Sun.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:26:05 EDT