Rowan Part of NASA Deep Impact WorkJune 23, 2005
When NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft, launched in January, attempts an encounter on July 4 with the distant comet Tempel 1, Rowan University will be a part of the action.
Dr. Karen Magee-Sauer, a physics and astronomy professor from Boothwyn, PA, and two of her students will provide ground-based support for the Deep Impact Mission, with time on the Keck telescope and the NASA Infrared Telescope in Hawaii to observe comet Tempel 1 before, during and after impact.
At the time of the encounter, Magee-Sauer and crew will analyze data obtained from ground-based support using the Keck 2 telescope remotely in this area. They will funnel their analysis back to their collaborators for subsequent release. Magee-Sauer is part of a group collaborating with scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on the project.
Following their initial work, the professor and her students, Jon Feuss, a rising junior computer science major from Oak Ridge, and Christopher Barone, a 2005 Rowan computer science graduate from Turnersville, will travel to Hawaii from July 10 to 18 to conduct post-impact observations of the comet at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on top of Mauna Kea.
According to Magee-Sauer, whose work is funded through a National Science Foundation grant, her team will study the pre-impact composition of the comet and compare this to the composition of the material released during the impact. Observations in the weeks after impact will further characterize the material from the freshly exposed cometary surface and monitor the comet's activity.
?We hope to see if there is a difference between the molecules before and after impact,? Magee-Sauer said. ?It is thought that the material buried deep inside the comet, protected from surface processing from radiation, could be different than what we normally observe from cometary surfaces."
"Comets are leftover material from when the solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago,? Magee-Sauer said. ?When the Earth was first formed, temperatures were too hot for water or other organic molecules. Comets and asteroids later delivered these molecules. By knowing the composition of comets, we learn what molecules were delivered to the Earth and provided for the origin of life on Earth."
Magee-Sauer earned her Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her B.S. from the University of Virginia. Her expertise is in the areas of cometary and planetary science, and she conducts research funded by the National Science Foundation.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Deep Impact mission for NASA. For information about NASA and the Deep Impact mission, visit: