Odin Satellite Observes Water In Comet 103P Hartley 2
Paris, France (SPX) Nov 05, 2010
The Odin satellite observed Comet Hartley 2 almost continuously from 29 October to 1 November. The water signature (line) was easily detected. Its extension and space distribution is shown on a map (Fig. 1). The production of water derived from the observations ranges from 180 to 300 kg (400 to 660 lb) per second.
This production of water (Fig. 2) is rapidly varying with time. This is in line with variations reported from other means of observation. It may be related to the rotation of the comet's nucleus, for which periods around 17h have been reported.
Comet 103P/Hartley 2 is a Jupiter-family comet orbiting the Sun close to the ecliptic plane, with a period of 6.5 years. Its return this year is exceptional.
It passed perihelion on 28 October at 1.059 AU from the Sun (158 million km; 98 million miles) and on 20 October, it came close to the Earth, at only 0.121 AU (18 million km; 11 million miles). Furthermore, it is the target of NASA's mission EPOXI, which is to fly by the comet on 4 November.
At this occasion, this comet is the object of an intense, international campaign of observation which mobilizes all major astronomical resources, including the Herschel Space Observatory. The Odin satellite is participating to this campaign.
The Odin satellite is a small spacecraft, orbiting the Earth, designed and built by Sweden, in collaboration with Canada, Finland and France.
It was launched in February 2001. Aimed for studying both the Universe (astronomy) and the terrestrial atmosphere (aeronomy), it allows for the observation of a number of molecular lines, at radio (submillimeter range) wavelengths, otherwise not accessible from the ground: in particular the fundamental water line at 556.9 GHz.
Odin is thus well suited for the study of water, the main constituent of cometary ices, released as water vapor following heating of cometary nuclei by the Sun.
Since its launch, Odin has observed about 15 comets. Now closed for astronomical observations, the Odin satellite concentrates on aeronomical studies, except for special occasions such as the passage of Comet Hartley 2. Images
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EPOXI Reveals Comet Hartley 2
Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 05, 2010
NASA's EPOXI mission spacecraft successfully flew past comet Hartley 2 at 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT) Thursday, Nov. 4. Scientists say initial images from the flyby provide new information about the comet's volume and material spewing from its surface. "Early observations of the comet show that, for the first time, we may be able to connect activity to individual features on the nucleus," sai ... read more
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