There is not a lot of material in the coma of Comet Tempel 1, according to scientists after studying recent observations made by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The space telescope saw a steady stream of X-rays from the interaction of the comet nucleus with the solar wind. However, the X-ray view could change during Tempel 1’s occasional outbursts, several of which have occurred in the past week. Images from Chandra might then show a forward arc of X-rays from coma material interacting with the solar wind.
Chandra and other space-based telescopes, including Hubble, are poised to capture images of Deep Impact’s impactor spacecraft slamming into Tempel 1. Each telescope offers its own suite of instruments tailored for specific regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing a more complete picture of the impact event and its aftermath than could be provided by visible light images alone.