Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monster solar flare imaged by Solar Dynamics Observatory

This massive solar flare erupted from the Sun's surface on February 24, and was imaged by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Check the SDO website for more info, plus a very dramatic movie of this explosion in space.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stardust sees impact site on comet Tempel 1

The stardust spacecraft flew by comet Tempel 1 last night, and acquired the close-up image of the surface that is seen on the left. Recall that this comet was first visited by the Deep Impact spacecraft in 2005, which shot that comet with a one-ton projectile; the high-res image on the left shows the impact site prior to the collision. One of Deep Impact's science goals was to observe the resulting crater, but the impact generated so much dust, the crater was never seen by Deep Impact. Fortunately, the Stardust spacecraft could maneuvered so that it would encounter comet Tempel 1 six years later. Stardust acquired the fuzzy low-res image on the right, which does indeed show the impact site, with a shallow 100m crater just inside the smaller circle. Note also that the impact obliterated the dark region that is seen at 10 o'clock along the yellow circle (left), in the pre-impact image. The Deep Impact crater has been observed at last!