From the Arizona Republic:
You can learn something about a rock by looking at it. But what most geologists really want is to smack it with a hammer.
And that’s just what planetary scientists will do July 4 when NASA’s Deep Impact mission reaches the comet Tempel 1 after a trip of six months and 80 million miles.
If all goes well, an 820-pound copper “hammer” the size of a bathtub will separate from its mother ship and, 24 hours later, smash into the comet’s icy nucleus at about 23,000 mph. advertisement
The high-speed impact will wallop the pickle-shaped comet with energy equivalent to 4.8 tons of TNT, said Michael A’Hearn, a University of Maryland astronomer and principal investigator on the $311 million mission.
Nobody’s sure what will happen next. There’s a small chance the impactor will blow the 2 1/2-mile-long comet to smithereens, or simply bore right through it like a bullet through a snowball. More likely, scientists say, it will blast open a crater the size of a football stadium. It all depends on what Tempel 1 is made of.I know what happens next… Armageddon II – Electric Boogaloo!
Cue the cheesy Aerosmith music, the robotic Ben Affleck, and the babelicious Liv Tyler…