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Science & Exploration

N° 33–2005: Deep Impact: getting to the heart of a comet with Europe’s contribution

21 June 2005

On 4 July 2005 at 07:52 CEST (Central European Summer Time), NASA’s Deep Impact mission, launched on 12 January this year, will start exploring a comet's interior by producing a crater with an impactor spacecraft, allowing another spacecraft to look deep inside the comet during a fly-by immediately afterwards.


For the first time, it will be possible to study the crust and the interior of a comet. As the material inside the comet's nucleus is pristine, it will reveal new information on the early phases of the solar system. This is a natural precursor to ESA’s Rosetta cometary mission, which seeks to perform the subtler task of orbiting and landing on a comet.

The impact will produce a crater expected to range in size from a house to a football stadium and reach an unknown depth. Ice and dust debris will be ejected from the crater, revealing fresh material beneath. Sunlight reflecting off the ejected material will provide some brightening that will fade as the debris dissipates into space or falls back onto the comet. Dramatic images of the impactor spacecraft’s final approach and possibly of the impact itself and of the crater will be sent to Earth in near-real time by both spacecraft.

Several observatories in orbit around Earth and countless Earth-bound telescopes will work in concert for an unprecedented global observation campaign to collect a maximum amount of additional data and information on this event.

ESA will use both its Rosetta comet chaser and the XMM/Newton Observatory to observe the impact. ESA’s 1-metre OGS telescope on Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) will be used for observations from the ground. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope will also observe the event.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) will direct all seven telescopes it operates at the La Silla and Parañal sites in Chile towards the event, amongst them the Earth’s currently most powerful and highest-resolution instruments in the infrared and visible wavelength ranges.

Initial data from these European observations will be available on 4 and 5 July, beginning a few hours after the impact, to enhance the images and information from the Deep Impact spacecraft itself.

Highlights of the day will be:

4 July

07:15 CEST (05:15 GMT) – ESA TV live event (approx 60 minutes) based on NASA-TV plus studio interviews and inserts, with links to ESO, MPI Lindau (Rosetta), ESA/ ESAC (XMM/Newton) and ESA/ESOC (mission operations).

09:30 CEST (07:30 GMT) – ESA TV update on European observations (approx 20 minutes).

10:00 CEST (08:00 GMT) – NASA media briefing – live rebroadcast by ESA TV (approx 30 minutes).

18:00 CEST (16:00 GMT) – ESA TV update with first Hubble image (black and white) (approx 20 minutes).

20:00 CEST (18:00 GMT) – NASA media briefing – live rebroadcast by ESA TV (approx 30 minutes).

5 July

06:00 CEST (04:00 GMT) – ESA TV update with first ESO colour images

The live portion of the ESA TV production and the NASA media briefing (07:15-10:30 CEST) can be watched at various ESA centres and elsewhere in Europe: ESA/ESOC at Darmstadt (Germany), ESA/ESTEC at Noordwijk (the Netherlands), ESA/ESRIN at Frascati (Italy), ESA/ESAC at Villafranca (Spain), La Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, ESA Headquarters in Paris and Le Parc-aux-Etoiles at Triel-sur-Seine (France), ESO in Garching, Munich and PPARC, London. In most places, experts will be available for interviews.

Media representatives wishing to attend the event at any of the centres are kindly requested to fill in the attached accreditation form and return it to the relevant contact person listed for each venue.

(*) ESA Television downlink parameters will be posted at, about 72 hours before the event.

For further information and a daily update of the transmission schedule, visit our website at For all TV enquiries, contact Claus Habfast, Tel +31 71 565 3838, Fax +31 71 565 6340, e-mail

For further information:

ESA Media Relations Division

Tel. + 33(0)1 5369 7155

Fax. + 33(0)1 5369 7690



Deep Impact: gettin to the heart of a comet with Europe’s contribution

Media events on Monday 4 July

First name:__________________ Surname:__________________

Media: _________________________________________________



Tel: ____________________ Fax:__________________________

Mobile: _________________ E-mail:_______________________

Monday 4 July

I will attend the following press briefing (from 07:00 until 10:30 hrs approx):

[ ] Germany

Location: ESA/ESOC Robert Bosch Strasse 5, Darmstadt, Germany

Contact: Jocelyne Landeau-Constantin

Tel: +49(0)6151.90.2696

Fax: +49.(0)6151.90.2961

[ ] Germany

Location: ESO Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2 D-85748 Garching bei München

Contact: Dr Henri Boffin

ESO Press Office

Tel: +49(0)89 3200 6222


[ ] France

Location: La Cité de l’Espace, Avenue Jean Gonord, 31500- Toulouse

Contact: P. Droneau

Tel.:+33(0)5 62 71 56 05


[ ] France

Location: Parc-aux-Etoiles, 2 rue de la Chapelle, 78510 Triel-sur-Seine

Contact: 33(0)1 39 74 75 10


[ ] France

Location: ESA Headquarters, 8-10 rue Mario Nikis, 75015 Paris

Contact: Anne-Marie Remondin

Tel.: + 33(0)1 53 69 71 55

Fax: + 33(0)1 53 69 76 90

[ ] The Netherlands

Location: ESA/ESTEC, Keplerlaan 1, Noordwijk, The Netherlands

Contact: Michel van Baal

Tel.: +31(0)71.565.3008

Fax: +31(0)71.565.5728

[ ] Italy

Location: ESA/ESRIN, Via Galileo Galilei, Rome, Italy

Contact: Franca Morgia

Tel.: +39.06.9418.0951

Fax: +39.06.9418.0952

[ ] Spain

Location: ESA/ESAC, Apartado 50727, Madrid, Spain

Contact: Monica Oerke

Tel.: +34(0)91.813.1100

Fax: +34(0)91.8131189

[ ] United Kingdom

PPARC Media Briefing starting at 06:30 BST

Location: Church House Conference Centre, London

Contact: Gill Ormrod

PPARC Press Office

Tel: +44 (0)1793 442012

Mobile: +44(0)781 8013509


NASA/JPL contacts:

Carolina Martinez:- NASA/JPL Media Relations

Tel: + 1 818 354-9382

DC Agle - NASA Press Office

Tel: + 1 818 393 9011



For further information:

ESA Media Relations Division

Tel: +33(0)

Fax: +33(0)