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Home >> Sci-Edu
UPDATED: 14:17, July 04, 2005
Comet collision closely observed by Chinese scientists
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A Chinese astronomer said Monday the collision of a US spacecraft with a speeding comet will help the human being to explore origin of life on the Earth.

Wang Sichao, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Nanjing Zijinshan Observatory, said over a telephone conversation with Xinhua that comets have brought water, ice and organic substance to the Earth from the outer space.

"Organic stuff could evolve into life in suitable environment," Wang said, adding that study on comets might give scientists keys to unravel mystery of life beginning.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) blasted off a spaceship, named Deep Impact which coincides with a Hollywood 1998 movie, January from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The target of six-month suicidal mission is the comet Tempel 1. The collision, which is estimated to occur around 0552 GMT (13:52 Beijing Time) Monday, will offer scientists the first ever look inside icy comets.

"Primordial ingredients inside the comet might provide us clues on how the sun and other celestial bodies were formed," Wang said.

NASA said that the collision will not significantly change the orbital path of Tempel 1, which might not pose any threat to the Earth.

But the Chinese astronomer said that a successful impact may teach scientists ways for evading future possible collision between comets and the Earth by bouncing comets with man-made spacecraft.

In 1994, a comet crashed into the Jupiter, which aroused worry among the Earth's residents.

Wang said his observation team has already taken pictures of Tempel 1 Saturday evening with a high-resolution telescope. His team will closely track the collision and movement afterwards.

Skygazers in the Western Hemisphere might able to see a shining brighter than normal.

An expert with Beijing Observatory said Chinese skygazers could also view the celestial fireworks, which might last for several hours after the collision, with professional telescopes.

A Beijing astronomy fan told Xinhua that he and his friends with similar interest will surf on websites, such as www.space.com and www.nasa.gov/deepimpact, to view live images.

Huang Chunping, a leading engineer who oversees the rocket system for China's first manned space mission in 2003, said that China is also able to send an impactor into the space.

"But we still need to make sure that scientific data could be successfully transmitted back to the Earth via impactor's mothership," Huang said.

Source: Xinhua


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