This Jan. 13 photograph was taken by Mt Palomar's 200-inch telescope as the Deep Impact spacecraft was at a distance of about 260,000 kilometers (163,000 miles) from Earth and moving at a speed of about 16,000 kilometers per hour (10,000 miles per hour). The high speed of the spacecraft causes it to appear as a long streak across the sky in the constellation Virgo during the 10-minute exposure time of the image.
The spacecraft will travel to comet Tempel 1 and release an impactor, creating a crater on the surface of the comet. Scientists believe the exposed materials may give clues to the formation of our solar system.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech
+ Higher resolution image