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A Valentine’s Day Date…In Space?

by / Friday, 28 January 2011 / Published in Blog - Space Log
{an artist's depiction of the encounter...with one silly addition!}

{an artist’s depiction of the encounter…with one silly addition!}

It doesn’t take more than a visit to your local supermarket to know that love is in the air. Where tinsel & garland once filled the aisles, huge pink and red hearts now reside. Images of cupid and his love arrows are all over the place, in addition to the amount of flowers, candy and Valentine cards. All this mushy love stuff might be too much for you here on Earth, but did you know that it even reaches out into space?

NASA’s Stardust-NExT spacecraft is going on a Valentine’s date. Well, sort of. On February 14th, the spacecraft will meet up with comet Tempel 1, but it won’t be for dinner and a movie. The Stardust-NExT will take some photos of the comet and try to get some information for scientists to see what changes have developed since an orbit around the sun took place. The info will help scientists learn more about Jupiter-family comets and how they form and change.

Don’t think you will be able to spy on this couple of lovebirds while they are meeting up. At the time of the encounter, Stardust-NExT will be almost on the exact opposite side of the solar system…about 209 million miles away from Earth! Thanks to the 72 photos which will be taken of the event and stored in an onboard computer, the rest of us here on Earth can still see what it was like. Scientists are excited because this will help them learn more about how comets work and “how they were put together four-and-a-half billion years ago.”

For more information about the Stardust-NExt mission, visit: http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov/

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