Images from comet Hartley 2 flyby

The Deep Impact spacecraft successfully completed its second cometary encounter earlier today, this time a close flyby of comet Hartley 2, and has returned some amazing images. The icy jets of gas and dust are very prominent in the new photos. See also the image gallery here. This is the fifth comet to be visited by a spacecraft.

There are already various nicknames for the comet after these first-ever close-up images, including dog bone, peanut, drumstick, cigar, bowling pin and pickle (I like dog bone and peanut the best). A question others have also been asking – why is the central part like a smooth-looking band, while the two ends are bumpy and rocky?

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD