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Comet Collision
By Kate Tuohy

Deep Impact
An artist's rendering of Deep Impact.
(Photo: NASA/JPL/UMD )
Tuesday, July 6, 2005—NASA scientists celebrated July 4 with an impressive display of space fireworks. They crashed a spacecraft into a comet traveling at 23,000 miles an hour.

The probe, or machine designed to find out information, hit the comet in a brilliant flash of white light. Scientists named the probe Deep Impact.

"You cannot help but get a big flash when objects meet at 23,000 miles per hour," said Pete Schultz, a scientist at Brown University who worked on Deep Impact.

The purpose of the probe was to provide scientists with information about the inside of the comet. Fitted with special cameras, the probe took pictures of the nucleus, or center of the comet, and sent them back to scientists on Earth.

"They say a picture can speak a thousand words," said NASA scientist Rick Grammier. "But when you take a look at some of the photos captured in the early morning hours of July 4, 2005, I think you can write a whole encyclopedia."

Space's Dirty Snowballs

Comets have been described as giant, dirty snowballs. They orbit, or go around, the sun, and are made of ice, dust, and rock. Scientists believe that they may contain materials from the formation of the solar system, 4.6 billion years ago!

It will take a few days for all the photos from Deep Impact to download, but scientists are anxious for the results.

"When I signed on for this mission, I wanted to get a closeup look at a comet, but this is ridiculous in a great way!" said Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland.