Deep Impact

  • Released Thursday, June 25, 2015

Comets abound in our solar system. But despite years of observations using ground and space-based telescopes, scientists have speculated on this basic question: Could material buried deep within a comet’s interior have seeded life on our planet? To find an answer, on July 4, 2005, NASA crashed a washing machine-sized probe into a comet the size of Manhattan. The probe was released from NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, which captured images of comet Tempel 1 before, during and after the collision. The impact produced a dramatic spray of ice and dust that burst from a newly formed crater. Analysis of the images revealed that comets harbor essential and ancient ingredients of life, including organic material that may have been delivered to Earth billions of years ago. Interior ices and substances in the comet’s core were also preserved, suggesting that they are protected from the sun’s heat. Watch the videos to see how the event unfolded.

Image of comet Tempel 1 taken by the Deep Impact spacecraft prior to impact.

Image of comet Tempel 1 taken by the Deep Impact spacecraft prior to impact.

Image of comet Tempel 1 taken after impact. The collision produced a bright flash of light and an expanding cloud of debris.

Image of comet Tempel 1 taken after impact. The collision produced a bright flash of light and an expanding cloud of debris.



Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Comet impact animation courtesy of Maas Digital
Comet impact video and images courtesy of NASA/JPL/UMD

Release date

This page was originally published on Thursday, June 25, 2015.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:49 PM EDT.