On Sunday night, July 3 2005, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will crash into comet Tempel 1. The point of this mission is to see what comets are made of and how they are constructed. Telescopes across the western hemisphere will be pointing at the comet to try and observe the celestial fireworks and see what happens.
Before the exact timing of the event was scheduled, I was awarded time at the MMT telescope outside of Tucson, Arizona. I'll be looking at distant galaxies during most of my time, but I was more than happy to volunteer a few hours of my time to try and study the comet before Earth's rotation takes it below the horizon.
So now I get to spend time this week learning about comets and trying to figure out how best to observe the Deep Impact mission. I'll be asking the instrument on the telescope to do things it wasn't designed to do, so I hope it all works out! There will be a TV crew up on the mountains, and I'll be sure to report here what is going on as it happens. Stay tuned!