Friday, July 01, 2005

Deep Impact

Everybody's talking about the 'Deep Impact' spacecraft due to hit the comet Tempel I on July 4th. It's supposed to make a small crater on the comet, and to to give us information about how craters form and what gases the crater puts off. I guess it also tells us that we can hit a comet moving through space.

There are those, however, who don't think this experiment is going to come off quite as the NASA Scientists expect. It's theorized that the impact could throw off debris in large quantites that follow the trajectory of the 'Deep Impact' spacecraft. This means that the comet debris will circle the sun in the same orbit as the spacecraft. So, while the 'fireworks' occuring on July 4th 2005 when 'Deep Impact' makes contact with Tempel I are the concern now, what we DON'T see happening on June 26th 2006 might cause some REAL fireworks. That is the day the comet's debris field, if it follows the orbit of 'Deep Impact', will re-enter the orbit path of Earth.

When Earth reaches that point in our orbit somewhere around Christmas of '06, we might have some nasty shooting stars. That will be just a foretaste, however, of might occur around Christmas of '07. Depending on the size of the debris, it could get ugly. Comet Tempel I might try to show us a 'Deep Impact' of it's own.

Of course, NASA scientists have done their homework. They have no doubt simulated the event enough times to know precisely what to expect. Also, I doubt we could do enough damage to this comet to make it a threat to us, even if we wanted to do so.