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NASA's close encounter with a new comet (images)

Originally named Deep Impact, NASA's Epoxi spacecraft had a close encounter with comet Hartley 2 - but didn't drop a bomb this time.
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Originally named Deep Impact, NASA's Epoxi spacecraft made a close encounter with comet Hartley 2 - but this time it didn't send a bomb to explode on its surface. The spacecraft made its closest approach to the comet, about 435 miles, today after having traveled 23 million miles to find it.

Hartley 2 is about 1.2 miles long and is .25 miles wide at its most narrow portion. Jets of gases are streaming from the nucleus.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

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More of comet Hartley 2.

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One of Epoxi's first image of Hartley 2 taken about 18 hours before its closest encounter.

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Comet Hartley 2 as seen from Earth by amateur astronomer Byron Bergert on October 6, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida using a 106 mm Takahashi astrograph.

Credit: Byron Bergert

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An artist shows the spacecraft now known as Epoxi.

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In  previous life as Deep Impact, the spacecraft, now known at Epoxi, gained fame in July 2005 by sending an explosive probe into the surface of comet Tempel 1 as shown in this artist's depiction.

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This image shows some of the features on comet Tempel 1. A and B show smooth areas. The explosion occured where the lower arrow indicates.

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Comet Tempel 1 as seen 67 seconds after the "impactor spacecraft" exploded on its surface.

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One of the most detailed images of comet Tempel 1 taken about 90 seconds before impact.

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