Spitzer's 15th Anniversary

15 of the Most Outstanding Spitzer Science Discoveries in the Last 15 Years

Recipe for "comet soup." Spitzer observed the aftermath of the collision between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet Tempel 1, finding that cometary material in our own solar system resembles that around nearby stars.

News Release • 09/07/2005 • When Deep Impact smashed into comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005, it released the ingredients of our solar system's primordial "soup." Now, astronomers using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Deep Impact have analyzed that soup and begun to come up with a recipe for what makes planets, comets, and other bodies in our solar system.

"The Deep Impact experiment worked," said Dr. Carey Lisse of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. "We are assembling a list of comet ingredients that will be used by other scientists for years to come." Lisse is the team leader for Spitzer's observations of Tempel 1. "How did clay and carbonates form in frozen comets?" asked Lisse. "We don't know, but their presence may imply that the primordial solar system was thoroughly mixed together, allowing material formed near the Sun where water is liquid, and frozen material from out by Uranus and Neptune, to be included in the same body."

"Now, we can stop guessing at what's inside comets," said Dr. Mike A'Hearn, principal investigator for the Deep Impact mission, University of Maryland, College Park. "This information is invaluable for piecing together how our own planets as well as other distant worlds may have formed."

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