Once again, July 4th is going to make history. We're all familiar with the events that led to Independence Day and our yearly paean to the founding fathers, veterans and ordinary people who made the three-day weekend possible. Most people are not aware that NASA is going to make history again when the Deep Impact probe slams into Tempel 1 to give us our first glimpse at the inside of a comet.
Six years in the making, Deep Impact is the first chance for scientists to prove that all the conjecture about the composition of space bodies is, in fact, true. This is a momentous achievement with exciting possibilities for space enthusiasts, but for the Earth-bound, it's still going to be a spectacular pre-fireworks show.
Providing that you are away from city lights, the cloud of debris sent up by the 23,000 mph collision on July 3rd (PST) will be visible—in some places with the naked eye—in an explosive show that could create a crater as large as a football field...a feat that will put even Jerry Bruckheimer to shame.
If you don't own binoculars or a telescope, or if you can't get out of the city to witness this spectacular event, you can hob-nob with some space fiends at the Comet Bash on Sunday night, presented by The Planetary Society. Things will kick off at 7 PM in Haugh Performing Arts Center at Citrus College in Glendora, including live images, updates from mission control, mission updates from JPL, and various speakers, all leading up to impact at 10:52 PM.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children and seniors.
Above image of Comet Tempel 1, as seen from Deep Impact while still 3,870,719 miles away.