UAF Scientist Offers New Insight into Comet and Planet Formations

A University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist is helping shape our understanding of the formation of the solar system. Don Hampton, the optical science manager at Poker Flat Research Range is part of team analyzing images of a comet taken by a NASA spacecraft. Hampton says spectral images confirm comets are comprised of condensed matter leftover from the formation of planets.

Hampton helped design cameras and other instruments for an unmanned NASA spacecraft used to collect images of an over mile long comet named Hartly 2 last fall.  Spectrographic cameras collect images of sunlight reflected by gases emitted from the comet.  Hampton says the mission provided a rare look at comet composition.

Hampton also participated in a 2005 NASA mission that used the same imaging spaceship. The data gathering ship is still in orbit, and Hampton says it’s available for additional research, but subsequent projects hinge on funding.  An article on the Hartly 2 Comet research was published in last week’s edition of Science magazine.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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