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Comets

Deep Impact carried an impactor probe, which it launched at comet Tempel 1 in 2005 (Image:...

Launched in 2005, the Deep Impact unmanned spacecraft has had a long career making flybys of various comets, but NASA says that mission control lost communications with the probe on August 8 and has been unable to restore the link.  Read More

Time exposure of the 2007 Perseids (Image: NASA)

Early August always brings with it the promise of a spectacular show in the form of the Perseid meteor shower. This shower, which peaks August 11-13, is one of the most reliable and active meteor displays throughout the year. A new NASA study also shows that more Perseid meteors are fireballs (averaging over 100 per year) than in any other meteor shower.  Read More

Comet West (C/1975 V1) as seen on March 9, 1976 (Photo: NASA)

The first comet discovered this year, Comet C/2013 A1, is currently projected to pass within about 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of the surface of Mars late in 2014. While this event in itself promises spectacular views for astronomers, the uncertainty of the comet's orbit includes a significant chance of an impact on Mars. If this happens, the impact would be hundreds of times more powerful than the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth.  Read More

How brightly will Comet PANSTAARS shine? We don't have long to wait for the answer (Photo:...

Any comet you can see is a good one. Comet PANSTAARS is beginning its run for observers in the Southern Hemisphere, and will become visible to those in the Northern Hemisphere in the first few days of March. However, updated estimates suggest the peak brightness will be considerably less than was earlier predicted.  Read More

The Herschel Space Observatory has recently analyzed the comet Hartley 2, and discovered t...

A recent discovery may add support to the theory that the water on Earth was brought by a rain of comets. Scientists have analyzed the comet Hartley 2, and discovered that ice found on it has the same composition as ocean water. The discovery was made utilizing an orbiting telescope on the Herschel Space Observatory, which can observe organic molecules by reading their far-infrared wavelengths.  Read More

Artist’s concept of the final firing of Stardust's rockets on March 24, 2011 (Image cred...

NASA's comet trekking spacecraft Stardust has officially ended operations. Stardust sent its last transmission to Earth on March 24 having traveled an incredible 3.54 billion miles over a 12 year period to become "NASA's most traveled comet hunter."  Read More

NASA's Stardust NExT mission image of the comet Tempel 1 at 8.39pm PST on February 14th 20...

On Valentine's day, while we were all cooing over your loved ones or lamenting the obvious negligence of the postman, scientists at Denver's NASA station were cooing over something rather larger. On February 14th this year, NASA's Stardust probe made its second visit to the comet Tempel 1 at 8.40pm PST, shaving the comet at a distance of 111 miles (178 km) and traveling at a relative speed of 24,300 mph (10.9 km per second). This is the first time scientists have been able to get a second look at a comet, which allows them to compare data from the first visit in order to learn more about these icy inhabitants of our solar system.  Read More

The peanut-shaped Hartley 2 comet is only the fifth comet to be studied at such close rang...

Mission controllers from the University of Maryland-led EPOXI mission celebrated last week as NASA's Deep Impact space probe flew close by the Hartley 2 comet, sending back rare and valuable data about the comet. This is only the fifth time that a comet core has been viewed from such a near distance by a space probe, and it is hoped that by understanding comets better we can learn more about the origin and history of our solar system.  Read More

1,400 megapixel telescope powered-up to spot earthbound asteroids

If there’s a killer asteroid or comet hurtling towards Earth it’s probably best to know about it sooner rather than later. However, space is a big place and keeping our eyes out for these little blighters is no mean feat even with a mighty automated telescope to hand. Fortunately, astronomers in Hawaii have just announced they’ve successfully managed to boot up the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) telescope, also known as PS1. Working from dusk-to-dawn every night Pan-STARRS is able to map one-sixth of the sky each month, allowing astronomers to track every moving object, calculate their orbits and identify any potential threats to Earth.  Read More

Artist’s conception of Stardust flying through gas and dust from comet Wild 2 (Image: NASA...

Fresh evidence has been revealed to support the theory that life on Earth began in space. NASA’s Stardust probe, a specially-designed comet ‘chaser’, successfully collected particles shed from Comet Wild 2 in 2004, and NASA scientists have since confirmed for the first time that amino acids can indeed be found on these extraterrestrial bodies.  Read More

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