NASA’s comet probe aims to make a big impact

NASA is planning to collide a spacecraft with a comet in a bid to learn more about the objects.

The Deep Impact experiment, scheduled to take place on 4 July, will provide the first chance to study the crust and interior of a comet when Comet Tempel-1 collides with a 370kg, one metre -long impactor.

It is hoped that analysis of the material preserved in the comet’s nucleus will shed light on the solar system’s origins.

Instruments onboard NASA’s Swift mission will study changes in the coma — the large cloud around the comet — and alterations to X-ray emissions caused by extra material ejected by the spacecraft’s impact.

A team from the University of Leicester, and UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, are also involved in the project.

Observation of the event will be carried out by ESA’s Rosetta and XMM Newton missions, together with the ESA/NASA Hubble telescope.