LOS ANGELES — A NASA spacecraft found itself hurtling through an unexpected cosmic ice storm during a recent flight past a comet, but came out unharmed, scientists reported Thursday.
Speeding at 27,000 mph, the Deep Impact craft flew within 435 miles of comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4 — only the fifth time a comet had been viewed up close.
New images from the flyby revealed a blizzard of white specks surrounding the nearly 1 1/2-mile (3 kilometer)-long peanut-shaped comet.
"Those are not stars. Those are all chunks of ice," said chief investigator Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland.