Nasa’s Deep Impact probe was redirected towards comet 103P/Hartley at the start of 2008 as part of the EPOXI mission – see post from the time. On Sunday 5th September the probe opened its eyes and took the first of more than 64,000 images its expected to take of Comet Hartley 2 [Image credit: NASA/JPL/UM].
On 4th November Deep Impact [EPOXI] will fly within 700km of the comet, which might at some point become visible to the naked eye. It will spend 21 days looking back observing the comet before transferring all data collected to Earth. Finally, the flight system will be decommissioned and Deep Impact will continue on its endless orbit of the Sun.
Here’s an earlier stunning video from Deep Impact of a lunar transit of Earth as seen from 31 million miles away. Video credit: Donald J. Lindler, Sigma Space Corporation/GSFC; EPOCh/DIXI Science Teams.