Stardust-NExT images posted

CBS News

Images from NASA's Stardust-NExT probe as it flew past comet Tempel 1 late Monday are being posted the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website as data from the spacecraft reach Earth and are processed. Stardust-NExT snapped 72 high-resolution images of Tempel 1's icy nucleus as it passed within about 120 miles of the comet at a relative velocity of 24,300 mph.

NASA managers hoped to show off five photos from the close-approach phase of the flyby shortly after the encounter, but the spacecraft instead sent its pictures back one at a time starting with the first image in the sequence. A news conference to discuss the images is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EST on NASA television.

In the meantime, here are a few of the approach-sequence photos taken by Stardust-NExT, along with a reference shot with labeled surface features that was taken by NASA's Deep Impact mission in 2005 (Credit: NASA):

Comet Tempel 1 as seen from the Deep Impact spacecraft in 2005, showing areas of flow-like terrain (a an b) and the site of an impact by an instrumented probe that blasted out a crater on the surface (large arrow; photo taken before impact). The white line at lower right represents 1 kilometer for scale.