The NASA Deep Impact space probe collided with the Tempel 1 comet with the energy equivalent of nearly 5 tons of TNT, hurling a fan-shaped cloud of debris at about 500 mph, or about the speed of a jetliner, scientists said.
The impact caused a bright flash of light, followed by a greater one as a larger-than-expected plume of gas and ice spilled from the comet. The Hubble Space Telescope captured the dramatic images of the impact.
“We’ve touched a comet, and we’ve touched it hard,” said Dr. Peter H. Schultz of Brown University.
Last week scientists guestimated the size of the impact crater would fall anywhere between a house and a stadium. Because of the cosmic dust, it could take another week before researchers can peek into the impact crater and take their first glimpse inside of the comet. Although they can’t measure the crater’s size, scientists think it was probably larger than a house.