Skip to main content


We’d like to understand how you use our websites in order to improve them. Register your interest.

Deep Impact and sample return


Returning a cold sample containing the ices from a cometary nucleus has long been an unachievable goal of cometary scientists. The results from the Deep Impact encounter with comet Tempel 1 suggest that the task is much easier than previously thought. Thus a cold sample return with ice becomes an achievable goal, at least from comet Tempel 1 and plausibly from other, active Jupiter-family comets.


  1. A’Hearn, M. F., et 32 al., Deep Impact: Excavating Comet Tempel 1, Science, 310, 258–264, 2005.

  2. Biver, N., et 22 al., Long Term Evolution of the Outassing of Comet Hale-Bopp From Radio Observations, Earth, Moon, Planets, 78, 5–11, 1997.

  3. Davidsson, B. J. R., P. J. Gutiérrez, and H. Rickman, Nucleus properties of Comet 9P/Tempel 1 estimated from non-gravitational force modeling, Icarus, 187, 306–320, 2007.

  4. Farnham, T. L., D. D. Wellnitz, D. L. Hampton, J.-Y. Li, J. M. Sunshine, O. Groussin, L. A. McFadden, C. J. Crockett, M. F. A’Hearn, M. J. S. Belton, P. Schultz, and C. M. Lisse, Dust Coma Morphology in the Deep Impact Images of Comet 9P/Tempel 1, Icarus, 187, 26–40, 2007.

  5. Feaga, L. M., M. F. A’Hearn, J. M. Sunshine, O. Groussin, and T. L. Farnham, Asymmetries in the distribution of H2O and CO2 in the inner coma of comet 9P/Tempel 1 as observed by Deep Impact, Icarus, 190, 345–356, 2007.

  6. Feldman, P. D., R. E. Lupu, S. R. McCandliss, H. A. Weaver, M. F. A’Hearn, M. J. S. Belton, and K. J. Meech, Carbon Monoxide in Comet 9P/Tempel 1 Before and After the Deep Impact Encounter, Ap. J. Letters, 647, L61–L64, 2006.

  7. Groussin, O., M. F. A’Hearn, J.-Y. Li, P. C. Thomas, J. M. Sunshine, C. M. Lisse, K. J. Meech, T. L. Farnham, L. M. Feaga, and W. A. Delamere, Surface Temperature of the Nucleus of Comet 9P/Tempel 1, Icarus, 187, 16–25, 2007.

  8. Holsapple, K. A. and K. R. Housen, A Crater and Its Ejecta: An Interpretation of Deep Impact, Icarus, 187, 345–356, 2007.

  9. Kadono, T., S. Sugita, S. Sako, T. Ootsubo, M. Honda, H. Kawakita, T. Miyata, R. Furusho, and J. Watanabe, The Thickness and Formation Age of the Surface Layer on Comet 9P/Tmepel 1, Astrophys. J. Lett., 661, L89–L92, 2007.

  10. Li, J.-Y., M. F. A’Hearn, L. A. McFadden, and M. J. S. Belton, Photometric analysis and disk-resolved thermal modeling of comet 19P/Borrelly from Deep Space 1 data, Icarus, 188, 195–211, 2007.

  11. Lisse, C. M., M. F. A’Hearn, T. L. Farnham, O. Groussin, K. J. Meech, U. Fink, and D. G. Schleicher, The Coma of Comet 9P/Tempel 1, Space Sci. Rev., 117, 161–192, 2005.

  12. Lisse, C. M., J. VanCleve, A. C. Adams, M. F. A’Hearn, Y. Fernández, T. L. Farnham, L. Armus, C. J. Grillmair, J. Ingalls, M. J. S. Belton, O. Groussin, L. A. McFadden, K. J. Meech, P. H. Schultz, B. C. Clark, L. M. Feaga, and J. M. Sunshine, Spitzer Spectral Observations of the Deep Impact Ejecta, Science, 313, 635–640, 2006.

  13. Mumma, M. J., M. A. DiSanti, K. Magee-Sauer, B. P. Bonev, G. L. Villanueava, H. Kawakita, N. Dello Russo, E. L. Gibb, G. A. Blake, J. E. Lyke, R. D. Campbell, J. Aycock, A. Conrad, and G. M. Hill, Parent Volatiles in Comet 9P/Tempel 1: Before and After Impact, Science, 310, 270–274, 2005.

  14. Richardson, J. E. and H. J. Melosh, Modeling the Ballistic Bahavior of Solid Ejecta from the Deep Impact Cratering Experiment, Lunar & Plan. Sci. Conf., Abstract # 1836, 2006.

  15. Richardson, J. E., H. J. Melosh, C. M. Lisse, and B. Carcich, A Ballistics Analysis of the Deep Impact Ejecta Plume: Determining Comet Tempel 1’s Gravity, Mass, and Density, Icarus, 190, 357–390, 2007.

  16. Schleicher, D. G., K. L. Barnes, and N. F. Baugh, Photometry and Imaging Results for Comet 9P/Tempel 1 and Deep Impact: Gas Production Rates, Postimpact Light Curves, and Ejecta Plume Morphology, Astron. J., 131, 1130–1137, 2006.

  17. Schultz, P. H., C. A. Eberhardy, C. M. Ernst, J. M. Sunshine, M. F. A’Hearn, and C. M. Lisse, The Deep Impact Oblique Cratering Experiment, Icarus, 190, 295–333, 2007.

  18. Sunshine, J. M., M. F. A’Hearn, O. Groussin, et 20 al., Exposed Water Ice Deposits on the Surface of Comet 9P/Tempel 1, Science, 311, 1453–1455, 2006.

  19. Sunshine, J. M., O. Groussin, P. L. Schultz, M. F. A’Hearn, L. M. Feaga, T. L. Farnham, and K. P. Klaasen, The Distribution and Structure of Water Ice in the Interior of Comet Tempel 1, Icarus, 190, 284–294, 2007.

  20. Thomas, P. C., J. Veverka, M. J. S. Belton, A. Hidy, M. F. A’Hearn, T. L. Farnham, O. Groussin, J.-Y. Li, L. A. McFadden, J. Sunshine, D. Wellnitz, C. Lisse, P. Schultz, K. J. Meech, and W. A. Delamere, The Shape, Topography, and Geology of Tempel 1 from Deep Impact Observations, Icarus, 187, 4–15, 2007.

  21. Tuzzolino, A. J., T. E. Economou, B. C. Clark, P. Tsou, D. E. Brownlee, S. F. Green, J. A. M. McDonnell, N. McBride, and M. T. S. H. Colwell, Dust Measurements in the Coma of Comet 81P/Wild 2 by the Dust Flux Monitor Instrument, Science, 304, 1776–1780, 2005.

  22. Weissman, P. R., E. Asphaug, and S. C. Lowry, Structure and Density of Cometary Nuclei, in Comets II, edited by M. C. Festou, H. U. Keller, and H. A. Weaver, 745 pp, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 2005.

  23. Whipple, F. L., A comet model. I. The acceleration of Comet Encke, Astrophys. J., 111, 375–394, 1950.

  24. Yeomans, D. K., P. W. Chodas, G. Sitarski, S. Szutowicz, and M. Królikowska, Cometary orbit determination and nongravitational force, in Comets II, edited by M. C. Festou, H. U. Keller, and H. A. Weaver, 745 pp, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 2005.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael F. A’Hearn.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

A’Hearn, M.F., Belton, M.J.S., Collins, S.M. et al. Deep Impact and sample return. Earth Planet Sp 60, 61–66 (2008).

Download citation

Key words

  • Comets
  • sample return
  • ice
  • nucleus