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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Astronomy Department to present program on comets

The New Mexico State University Department of Astronomy will present a special program on comets at the campus observatory starting at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 3 - just a few hours before NASA's Deep Impact space probe is scheduled to collide with comet Tempel 1.

tronomer Jim Murphy will present a slide show and talk about comets. Weather permitting, participants also will use the observatory's telescopes to view a variety of celestial objects.

The campus observatory is located off of Williams Street south of the tennis courts and near the running track on the NMSU main campus.

The Deep Impact spacecraft's 800-pound impactor probe is scheduled to slam into Tempel 1 at about 11:52 p.m. At that time the comet will be too low in the sky to be viewed by the campus observatory's telescopes, but anyone interested in learning more about comets in anticipation of the historic event is invited to the public presentation.

While Murphy is presenting the slide show at the campus observatory, his astronomy department colleague Nancy Chanover will be preparing to observe the comet impact using the 3.5-meter telescope at Apache Point Observatory, high in the Sacramento Mountains near Cloudcroft.

Using the big telescope's infrared instrument, Chanover will look for the signatures of molecules or isotopes released by the impact, which could tell scientists about the composition of the comet's nucleus.

For more information about the campus observatory event, call the NMSU Department of Astronomy.