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Thursday13 November 20035:12pm MST2003-11-14 UTC 0012
Today's news Page status: done, one expansion added
  • Mission news – Deep Impact project perils
  • Meteor news – Leonid predictions (expanded) & Nevada small find from a big asteroid
  • Risk monitoring – all's quiet since yesterday
Mission news

Deep Impact:  The Rocky Mountain News has an article today, "Cucumber-like comet puts space probe in a pickle: Skinny target could be harder for Ball's Deep Impact to hit."

When the mission was conceived, researchers thought Tempel 1 was a potato-shaped ice ball that offered a pleasingly plump target. But a recent analysis of ground-based observations of Tempel 1 suggests the comet is long and lean — shaped more like a cucumber than a potato. . . about 5.3 miles long and 1.7 miles wide. 

While JPL has been working on "new targeting software to enable Deep Impact to find Tempel 1 even if the comet is irregularly shaped," progress also is being made on solving some "big" problems with the spacecraft's computer, which "were partly responsible" for delaying the mission launch from January to late December 2004.

Deep Impact's Small Telescope Science Program (STSP) for professional astronomers and "technically-proficient" amateurs "will relaunch . . . in 2004 when conditions become favorable for observing" 9P/Tempel 1 (dates).

There is more info at A/CC's Deep Impact and 9P/Tempel 1 [link|alt] archives.

Deep Impact comet impactor,
image courtesy of the mission"X-ray view" illustration of the comet impactor from the Deep Impact mission site. This device will be flown in front of the comet, which will plow into it at more than 10 km./sec. (23,000 mph).
"We expect a crater ranging in size from a house to a football stadium, two to seven stories deep. The impactor weighs 370 kg (about 820 lbs) and is 1 meter (3-1/2 ft.) in diameter by 0.8 meters (2-3/4 ft) tall."

Meteor news

Leonids:  The International Meteor Organization (IMO) has posted an article (as a 253Kb PDF file) from its journal, WGN, "Leonids: The 2003 Leonid shower from different approaches," by Jeremie Vaubaillon, Esko Lyytinen, Markku Nissinen, and David J. Asher. The IMO home page lists the latest predicted Leonid peaks from today through November 23rd, and has links to reports on Leonids of the last five years. Additional: See the Finnish Meteor Section's Leonids 2003 page.

Nevada find:  The Reno Gazette-Journal has an article from yesterday, "New space rocks join planetarium collection." It tells about the University of Nevada Fleischmann Planetarium in Reno receiving two very small iron-nickel meteorites, which

were found by Gordon and Patricia Cave with a metal detector while prospecting for gold last year.

The name proposed for the two celestial rocks is "Sawtooth Knob Meteorites," based on the Humboldt County site northeast of Gerlach where the Caves discovered them in a dry creek bed under 4 to 8 inches of soft desert soil. 

The reported scientific analysis is that these tiny pieces had to "have formed in the core of an asteroid approximately 375 miles in diameter" during the first hundred million years of Solar System solid matter accretion. The two surviving objects of that size in the asteroid Main Belt are 1 Ceres [link|alt] and 2 Pallas [link|alt].
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