Inspirational posts by Christian Author, N.W. Boyer

Pondering Space

Earth is one tiny planet amid the fullness of space that may have no end.  It boggles the mind.  Through the genius of scientific inventions, we have only scratched the surface to what is out there….way out there…in the universe.  A few scientific minds have brought this vastness to us to ponder.  Yet, how many of us actually go out on a dark, winter night to see all that we can possibly see of a fraction of what we know?   Our days are filled with earthly things.  Maybe it is time for us to think about the heavenly.

 

History of the discovery of a special comet…Tempel 1

“On the night of April 3, 1867, at Marseilles Observatory in France, Wilhelm Tempel discovered a ninth-magnitude comet near the star Zubeneschamali, in the constellation of Libra, the Scales. Unfortunately, the comet – Tempel’s ninth over the previous eight years – would remain rather dim and unimpressive as it followed a path through Libra and into nearby Scorpius, the Scorpion.

Despite its poor showing, however, Tempel’s find attracted considerable attention when calculations showed that it was moving around the Sun in an elliptical orbit, taking only about 5 years to complete one trip around the Sun.

tempel_at_marseille discovered comet temple1

Wilhelm Tempel

 At that time, astronomers knew of only eight other comets with short-period orbits (comets taking less than 200 years to revolve around the Sun). This was also the first of two periodic comets that would ultimately bear Tempel’s name. Today it is cataloged as Comet 9P/Tempel 1 (the ninth periodic comet discovered and the first of the two periodic comets discovered by Tempel).

By the end of August 1867, Comet Tempel 1 had faded away as it moved back out into space. Near aphelion (that point in its orbit farthest from the Sun), the comet passed close to Jupiter, and the planet’s massive gravitational pull significantly altered the comet’s orbit. In fact, the next expected approach of Comet Tempel 1 to the Sun was delayed by 118 days in early 1873, all because of Jupiter’s interference. As a result, the comet’s orbital period was lengthened slightly to almost exactly six years. The comet was observed again during the spring of 1879.

But on its outward journey following its 1879 appearance, Comet Temple 1 had another encounter with Jupiter in 1881, this time coming much closer to that giant world than before. So dramatic in fact, were the changes wrought by Jupiter upon the comet’s orbit, that Tempel 1 went completely unobserved during 1885. And with no new information concerning the comet’s altered path through space, astronomers considered it hopelessly lost.

Interestingly, however, the game of tug-of-war between Jupiter and Comet Tempel was far from over. In fact, about every 12 years, the two objects came close to each other and each time the comet’s path through space was slightly altered.

By the 1960’s astronomers had changed their method of computing orbits and were now using electronic computers. Although the computing technology of more than 40 years ago was stone-age compared to today’s PCs, those early computers did allow for a relatively easy study of comet orbits…

It was orbital expert Brian Marsden, who in 1963 initiated an investigation into the loss of Comet Tempel 1. He and astronomers, J. Schubart and G. Schrutka issued predictions for possible returns of the comet in 1967 and 1972 – of which the latter apparition was expected to be very favorable… Comet Temple 1 has since been observed on five more returns to the Sun. On New Years’ Eve in 1997, the Hubble Space Telescope was even able to detect the comet nucleus: a potato-shaped lump of rock coated with icy, volatile gases measuring roughly 8 miles (14 kilometers) long… (Joe Rao, Skywatching columnist)

Tempel 1 before Deep Impact

Tempel 1 Alive with Light This spectacular image of comet Tempel 1 was taken 67 seconds after it obliterated Deep Impact’s impactor spacecraft. The image was taken by the high-resolution camera on the mission’s flyby craft. Scattered light from the collision saturated the camera’s detector, creating the bright splash seen here. Linear spokes of light radiate away from the impact site, while reflected sunlight illuminates most of the comet surface. The image reveals topographic features, including ridges, scalloped edges and possibly impact craters formed long ago.  (writing by Ashley Strickland..CNN) (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD)

The Deep Impact probe of the comet, Tempel 1:    On 4 July 2005, Tempel 1 was deliberately struck by one component of the NASA Deep Impact probe, one day before perihelion. The impact was photographed by the other component of the probe, which recorded a bright spray from the impact site. The impact was also observed by earthbound and space telescopes, which recorded a brightening of several magnitudes…  

The crater that formed was not visible to Deep Impact due to the cloud of dust raised by the impact, but was estimated to be between 100 and 250 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep. The probe’s spectrometer instrument detected dust particles finer than a human hair and discovered the presence of silicates, carbonates, smectite, metal sulfides or fool’s gold, amorphous carbon and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  Water ice was also detected.  (Wikipedia)

 

What can we say then….only that “The heavens declare the glory of God;

and the firmament sheweth His handiwork…”  Psalm 19:1

 

Video:  Deep Impact- Orbiter Space Flight Simulator 2010  (turn up sound)

 

 

 

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