Deep Impact at Kitt Peak

Comet Trail

comet streak

On the night of the Deep Impact event, many hundreds of images were taken of comet Tempel 1 at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center Observatory. In the almost two hours of time that elapsed during that imaging, the comet’s position changed against the background stars. When all of the images of this motion are added together, the resulting streak of light is shown in the image above. Starting from the left, the comet was its natural brightness. The streak brightens significantly in the middle, immediately after impact of the probe!

Light curve of Comet Tempel 1 before and after impact

Comet Tempel 1 Light Curve

Blink Animation of Comet Tempel 1 before and after impact

Below you will see a blinking animation of two images of Comet Tempel 1. These images were obtained approximately 20 minutes before and after the impact. East is to the top and right.

Blink animation before and after impact

Animation of Comet Tempel 1

This is a looping animation of the “live” images, beginning at 22:20:00 (10:20pm) MST and ending about 23:45:00 (11:45pm) MST. A full resolution animation (9.13 MB GIF) as well as an animation with the comet stationary and the starfield moving behind it (11MB GIF) are also available.

Comet Tempel 1

About the images

Images Credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF

Conditions were rather windy (gusts of up to 15-20 MPH) as we imaged the comet which caused some elongation of the stars and the comet nucleus due to some slight shaking of the telescope. We also experienced a great number of people coming to this page to see the images and were unable to upload everything in real time. We did collect data throughout the night and will have an animation up shortly.

These images of Tempel 1 were taken using the Kitt Peak Visitor Center’s 20in Ritchey-Chretien telescope (RCOS) and an SBIG ST10XME CCD camera.

Visitor Center Telescope

Other facts:

Would you like to use this equipment for yourself? Check out our Nightly Observing Program or, for a full night with the telescope, see the Advanced Observing Program!

More about Deep Impact

For more information about Deep Impact, visit the mission’s Web sites at and


NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.