NASA's venerable Stardust spacecraft will on Valentine's Day burn its remaining fuel to approch and photograph comet Tempel 1, marking the end of a 12-year, 3.7 billion-mile odyssey. At 16:37 GMT, Stardust will pass within 124 miles of the comet, grabbing 72 "high-resolution images during the encounter", while attempting to " …
While it's over that way...
... maybe they could take a few quick snaps of that other Earth.
Beamed back pictures?
If the spacecraft is going to be "almost on the exact opposite side of the solar system" how is it going to immediately beam back images of Tempel 1? I'd have thought the sun might be a little bit in the way?
Can someone explain what I've misunderstood please?
The sun's only in the way...
...If you're on or near the ecliptic.
Presumably this will be a bit above or below the plane of the ecliptic and so we can get a signal from it.
Re: Beamed back pictures?
It's the opposite side but not exactly or in line with the sun (yet). It is approximately in line with Mercury at the the moment as viewed from Earth.
This page ...
and especially this diagram ...
shows the relationship quite well.
I assume it will actually go behind the sun later on.
Comets' orbits are usually inclaned to the plane of the solar system, about 10 degrees in this case. Therefore the probe will be above or below the sun, and have line of sight with us.
Wouldn't going "head to head with a comet" kind of blow the chance of getting any pictures? Suppose it would double the chances of the next mission spotting a crater though.
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