Easy credentialing for reporters covering observation of comet impact at Penn State Control Center

07/04/05

Scientists using the Swift satellite will study the results of NASA's Deep Impact experiment in space beginning shortly before 2:00 a.m. Eastern time on 4 July 2005, when a NASA probe will attempt to blast a hole in the frozen comet Tempel 1. The collision is designed to expose, for the first time, a section of ancient and virgin material from a comet's interior.

The Swift observatory will provide simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of this rare event, capturing images of the impact in both ultraviolet and X-ray light. Swift scientists at Penn State, the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, in England, and in Italy will immediately begin to analyze Swift's observations of the Deep Impact collision. Penn State controls Swift's science and flight operations from the Mission Operations Center in University Park, Pennsylvania.

Penn State has set up an easy credentialing process for reporters who wish to cover the observations inside Swift's Mission Operations Center. Reporters are welcome in the Mission Operations Center on 4 July 2005 from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Credentials:

Send an e-mail note *in advance* to inform Swift Scientist Dr. Margaret Chester chester@astro.psu.edu that you plan to cover the Deep Impact experiment at the Swift Mission Operations Center on 4 July. Your note should state: your full name, whether or not you are a U. S. citizen, the name and location of the news organization for which you are writing your story, and your phone number. You must bring your photo identification card from your news organization to the Swift Mission Operations Center.

Set-Up for Reporters:

Reporters will be able to cover operations in the Mission Operations Center from an area reserved for them near the control room. A scientist will give frequent updates and will answer questions. Reporters also can view NASA's web-based televised coverage of the Deep Impact experiment in the Swift Mission Operations Center.

Directions to the Mission Operations Center:

A web site, http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/MediaRelations.html, contains directions to the Swift Mission Operations Center plus more information about the Swift observatory.

Contacts: Margaret Chester (Mission Operation Center logistics): chester@astro.psu.edu, 814-865-7746 Sally Hunsberger (science operations): sdh@astro.psu.edu, 814-865-7748 Neil Gehrels (Swift principal investigator): gehrels@gsfc.nasa.gov, 301-286-6546 Barbara K. Kennedy (PIO), science@psu.edu, 814-863-4682, cell 814-883-6930

More Information:

Swift is unique among the the dozens of world-class observatories in space and on Earth in combining the length of its planned observation time for the Deep Impact experiment, in its simultaneous multiwavelength observations, and in its rapid speed and agility. No one knows in advance what to expect from the collision, but Swift scientists at Penn State, in Italy, and in England will analyze the data collected by Swift to understand its meaning before, during, and for a number of days after the collision.

The comet Tempel 1 is about the size of Washington, D.C. Scientists hope that the impact will expose, for the first time, the deep inside of the comet, allowing them to analyze pristine material from the formation of the solar system locked below the comet's frozen surface. While much is known about a comet's basic ingredients, less is known about its density and internal composition. Viewing the impact with a variety of instruments and in a variety of wavelengths will help scientists gauge, for example, the comet's density and whether it is snowy or icy.

The ultraviolet light, invisible to the human eye, likely will come from material heated to 2,000 degrees by the impact. The X-rays, also invisible to the human eye, likely will come from material around the comet that may be briefly illuminated by the high-energy solar wind from the Sun. The visible light, which will be detected by other observatories, likely will come from newly liberated ice kicked up into the comet's thin atmosphere.

Swift is a medium-class NASA explorer mission in partnership with the Italian Space Agency and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council in the United Kingdom, and is managed by NASA Goddard. Penn State controls science and flight operations of Swift from the Mission Operations Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. The spacecraft was built in collaboration with national laboratories, universities and international partners, including Penn State University; Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico; Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, Calif.; Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Dorking, Surrey, England; the University of Leicester, England; Brera Observatory in Milan; and ASI Science Data Center in Frascati, Italy.

In addition to managing and staffing Swift's control center, Penn State scientists lead the development of two of the satellite's three telescopes and continue to be the lead scientists for these instruments.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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