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  1. #1's Avatar Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    June 23, 2005

    ***{EDITORS NOTE: Several astronomers invite reporters to join them at
    telescopes during the Deep Impact encounter night or after, providing
    news media arrange their visits in advance. The observers will be
    so they won't be able to host members of the general public. The UA
    of University Communications (formerly UA News Services) will shoot
    video at
    the UA/Smithsonian 6.5-meter MMT Observatory during the encounter to
    broadcast media with b-roll. Media contacts are listed at the end of
    release.} ***

    Have a wish for the USA's birthday this year?

    If you're a ground-based astronomer in Arizona and states west through
    Hawaii, you'll wish for clear, dark skies in early July.

    It's your chance to watch what happens when NASA's Deep Impact
    slams its 820-pound copper probe into comet Tempel 1 at 23,000 mph.

    The impact is expected at 10:52 p.m. MST Sunday, July 3. The
    will fly next to the comet to document the fireworks, and several major
    space telescopes -- Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra -- will witness the
    result. Big
    telescopes in Hawaii and major observatories in California and Arizona
    be watching from 83 million miles away, too.

    Southern Arizona astronomers will be watching the comet impact. Some,
    those with Arizona Radio Observatory, which supports the NASA Deep
    Ground-based Radio Science campaign, and at Kitt Peak National
    have already logged many nights studying the comet.

    The Deep Impact mission goal is to blast a crater for a first-ever
    inside a comet, which is made of the same stuff that made up our solar
    system billions of years ago, before the planets formed. Scientists
    hope to
    learn a lot from the small comet, which is only about 8.7 miles long
    and 2.5
    miles wide.

    No one knows what will happen on impact.

    "We expect to be surprised," said University of Arizona Regents
    H. Jay Melosh, a member of the Deep Impact science team. "We don't know
    the comet's surface is like. We could hit something as hard as concrete
    as soft as cornflakes."

    Melosh will be at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif.,
    the probe-comet collision. The Jet Propulsion Lab is managing Deep
    which is a NASA Discovery class mission conducted by the University of
    Maryland, College Park, Md.

    Melosh will talk on "First Results from the Deep Impact Mission" in
    on Saturday, July 9. His talk will be at 6:15 p.m. in the Kuiper Space
    Sciences Building, 1629 E. University Blvd.,Tucson. The lecture, which
    part of a program sponsored by UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
    Outreach Program, is free and open to the public. Seating is first
    first served, so event organizers recommend showing up when LPL opens
    doors at 5 p.m.

    Mike Belton, president of Belton Space Exploration Initiatives,
    Tucson, and
    deputy-principal investigator on the mission, came up with the mission
    "Deep Impact" before a drama-sci-fi-thriller with the same title was
    released in 1998. (The movie, starring Robert Duvall and Tea Leoni, is
    humans preparing to survive a catastrophic comet impact.)

    Melosh noted that Deep Impact's copper probe could no more send comet
    Tempel 1 careening toward Earth than a kamikaze gnat could change the
    path of a fully loaded Boeing 747.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Here's the rundown of what southern Arizona observatories are doing
    week of Deep Impact:

    The Arizona Radio Observatory (ARO) 12-meter Kitt Peak
    and ARO's 10-meter Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope on Mount
    Ariz. The 12-m ARO Website:
    Science contacts: UA Professor Lucy Ziurys, ARO director.
    St. Cloud State University Professor Maria Womack, principal

    The ARO 12-meter telescope has been observing comet Tempel 1 for
    information on the kinds and quantities of molecules that are present
    the comet before impact. ARO's Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope
    Mount Graham, Ariz., begins making baseline observations June 23. The
    project is led by St. Cloud State University astronomer Maria Womack, a
    collaborator of the NASA Deep Impact Ground-based Radio Science team.

    The observers will study molecules ejected in debris after impact,
    molecules rarely detected in coma gas. "We're most interested in
    molecules -- those which sublimate directly from the nucleus," Womack
    "By measuring their abundances we can determine the chemical
    composition of
    the comet nucleus and, therefore, get information about the conditions
    which the comet formed." Womack added, "Remote observing procedures
    work so
    well that I don't need to be at the Arizona telescope, and that gives
    me the
    chance to collect much more data than I otherwise would have."

    "These molecules should be bright enough for our telescope to detect
    in a
    few minutes after impact," said ARO graduate student Stephanie Milam,
    assist with the observations and is heavily involved in cometary

    National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) on Kitt Peak,
    Media contact: Douglas Isbell, 520-318-8230,
    All major NOAO telescopes on Kitt Peak will be observing the comet for
    several nights before impact as well as the impact itself. These
    include the
    Mayall 4-meter telescope, the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter telescope, and the
    3.5-meter telescope.

    The UA/Smithsonian 6.5-meter MMTO observatory on Mount
    Ariz. Website:
    Science contacts: MMTO Director Faith Vilas, 281-483-5056,
    Kurtis A. Williams, UA Steward Observatory, 520-621-9262,

    Williams will be observing stars and galaxies with a multi-object
    spectrograph on the MMTO on July 3-4, but also comet Tempel 1 according
    to a
    strategy being developed by Faith Vilas, the new MMTO director.

    The Catalina Sky Survey, a consortium of three cooperating
    surveys: the original Catalina Sky Survey and the Mount Lemmon Sky
    Survey in
    the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, and the Siding Spring
    near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia. Website:
    Science contact: Steve Larson, 520-621-4973,
    Rob McNaught,

    The cooperating surveys share a common goal - to help inventory more
    than 90
    percent of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that are one kilometer or larger.
    three surveys have been monitoring the Tempel 1 comet and will observe
    during impact from both the northern and southern hemispheres.

    UA's 61-inch Kuiper Telescope in the Santa Catalina Mountains
    north of Tucson. Website:
    Science contact: Carl Hergenrother, 520-621-9690,

    The comet will be about 20 degrees above the horizon, and sets about
    hours after impact. With a 61-inch telescope, Hergenrother plans to
    as many as 50 other comets as well as Tempel 1 from July 2 through July

    Spacewatch on Kitt Peak, Ariz. Website:
    Science contacts: Spacewatch Director Robert McMillan, 520-621-6968,
    James Scotti, 520-621-2717,

    McMillan and Scotti have made no specific plans for watching comet
    Tempel 1
    during Deep Impact because the comet is so low in the sky, although
    said he may try for some before-and-after impact images of Tempel 1.
    25-year-old Spacewatch project is the pioneering comet-and-asteroid
    and another source of top comet and asteroid experts.

    Campus Station 21-inch telescope, adjacent to the astronomy
    department buildings on the UA campus. Website:
    Science contacts: Steward Observatory associate astronomer Thomas
    UA astronomy major Joshua V. Nelson,

    Fleming and Nelson photographed the comet with Steward Observatory's
    telescope at Campus Station on June 8, using a light-pollution
    filter to cut out some of the street light pollution. They'll use the
    setup to observe the comet on encounter night, starting at 10 p.m.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Tempel 1 is named after Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel, who discovered
    comet on April 3, 1867, in Marseilles, France. The comet is now on a
    south-southeast course through constellation Virgo. It is about 40
    dimmer than is visible to the unaided eye, but could brighten enough
    impact to be seen through binoculars, astronomers say. However, they
    add, it
    could take minutes to hours, even days before the comet fully
    brightens, and
    there?s no guarantee that Earth-based telescopes will even see the
    impact flash.

    Flandrau Science Center will open its observatory special hours
    June 3, through Saturday, June 9. Because comet Tempel 1 will be so
    and low in the Arizona sky during its collision with the probe at 11
    Sunday night, the comet will be difficult to find in large amateur
    telescopes from light polluted city locations. For stargazers who want
    try Sunday night, Flandrau will open its 16-inch telescope from 7:30
    until midnight, for real time video imaging and for direct viewing if
    comet is bright enough.

    The best nights to view the comet from Flandrau's 16-inch telescope
    may be
    Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights after impact. The telescope will
    open for the public from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday,
    4 - 9. Flandrau's 16-inch telescope is the only free public telescope
    on a regular basis in the state of Arizona. Normal telescope hours are
    p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, weather permitting. For more
    information, visit Flandrau's Web page at and
    the Flandrau Astronomy News line at 520-621-4310.

    Media Contacts
    Lori Stiles, UA 520-626-4402
    Virginia Pasek, LPL Public Events 520-621-9692
    Mike Terenzoni, Flandrau 520-621-3646
    Doug Isbell, NOAO 520-318-8230

    Related Web sites:
    Deep Impact -
    UA Lunar & Planetary Lab -
    UA Steward Observatory -
    LPL Public Events Program -
    Flandrau Science Center -

    Observatory Web sites:
    Arizona Radio Observatory, 12m -
    6.5-m MMT Observatory -
    Kitt Peak National Observatory -
    Catalina Sky Survey -
    Kuiper 61-inch -
    Spacewatch -
    21-inch Campus Station -

  2. #2
    Ed Majden's Avatar
    Ed Majden Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    in article 1119549539.013661.271160@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups. com, at wrote on 6/23/05 10:58:

    Why was the 4th of July selected as the impact date. Was this for a
    scientific reason or is this just a political stunt? Wouldn't it have been
    better to select a date where the Comet was higher in the sky so more
    observatories could have a better look. Just asking!

  3. #3's Avatar Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    Ed Majden wrote:

    Well, what about observers in the southern hemisphere? They're just
    as likely to be of scientific value as ones to the north.

    -Mark Martin

  4. #4
    Paul Schlyter's Avatar
    Paul Schlyter Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    In article <>, says...

    Definitely a political stunt, probably combined with reasonable scientific

    Remember the Viking landers from 1976? The original intent was to have the
    first Viking lander touch down on Mars on 4 July 1976. But in that case
    science won: the landing had to be postponed because no suitable landing
    spot was found in time to do the landing 4 July.

    The impact is intended to be observed from the spacecraft, not from Earth-
    based observatories. Most Earth-based observatories will be busy with other
    observations anyway....

    Paul Schlyter, Grev Turegatan 40, SE-114 38 Stockholm, SWEDEN
    e-mail: pausch at saaf dot se

  5. #5
    Tom Polakis's Avatar
    Tom Polakis Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    Paul Schlyter wrote:

    "Stunt" might be a harsh word. This mission required NASA funding,
    which requires federal government support, who require popular support.
    Playing the patriotism card probably does not harm prospects for
    funding future missions like Deep Impact. Okay, it's a stunt then!

    I think a lot of Americans are going to be confused by Universal time
    again. The impact happens on the night of July 3 in the U.S.

    I don't know about that. Some of the largest telescopes in the world
    will be pointed at the comet during and after the impact. This
    includes telescopes at La Silla, Paranal, and Mauna Kea, La Palma, and
    Siding Spring. And as you mention, Spitzer, HST, et al. will also be


  6. #6
    rj's Avatar
    rj Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    "Tom Polakis" <> wrote in message

    It's at 1am on July 4 on the east coast.


  7. #7
    Bill Owen's Avatar
    Bill Owen Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    Paul Schlyter wrote:

    We had to encounter it close to the descending node of its orbit -- the
    spacecraft can't stray far from the ecliptic. We're fortunate that
    perihelion is close to the node too (argument of perihelion is 178.8
    There was some slop in the encounter time, enough to time the impact
    so that both spacecraft could be in touch with two DSN stations
    and Canberra). We can also see the impact from Hawaii and Palomar.

    So politics really had nothing to do with it. As it is, the whole
    team is going to be working over what would normally be a 4-day weekend.

    That would have been nice, but the comet was too far out of the ecliptic
    when it was at opposition a few months ago. We couldn't have gotten
    there without a gravity assist to change the orbital plane.

    Quite the contrary. Keck, Palomar and other observatories are part of
    the campaign, as are HST and Rosetta. The exact time of impact was
    determined by the desire to have Hubble watching. I also suspect that
    other observatories will be monitoring the comet in the days after the
    impact, as they have been before it.

    -- Bill Owen, DI navigation team

  8. #8
    Michael McCulloch's Avatar
    Michael McCulloch Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    On Fri, 24 Jun 2005 11:28:44 -0400, "rj" <> wrote:

    And for mid-latitude east coast observers the comet will be at ~10 deg
    elevation and sinking toward the horizon. Not much hope of seeing
    anything through the typical summer haze at that elevation... I plan
    on trying to observe the comet on the following evening for any visual

    Michael McCulloch

  9. #9
    Ed Majden's Avatar
    Ed Majden Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    in article, Bill Owen at
    wrote on 6/24/05 8:48:

    Thanks for your comments and explanation. Now the date selection makes
    more sense. It is sure sad that comet modeler Fred Whipple did not live
    long enough to see the results of this mission.
    Ed Majden

  10. #10's Avatar Guest

    Default Astronomers' Holiday Special - A July 4 Comet Bash

    rj wrote:

    Actually, +/- 3 minutes of:

    3-July-2005 22:52 PDT
    4-July-2005 01:52 EDT
    4-July-2005 05:52 UTC


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