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A celestial fireworks display

July 2005: A comet impact puts an exclamation mark on a month that also features evening views of Jupiter gleaming in the southwest, and Venus and Mercury dancing in twilight.
The interplanetary space probe Deep Impact is set to blast a hole in Comet 9P/Tempel 1 July 4. In excavating a stadium-size crater, the probe will allow planetary scientists to ­analyze the composition of frozen material dating back to the solar ­system's formation. No one knows what effects the impact will have on the comet's appearance, but astronomers think there's a reasonable chance backyard observers far from city lights will see a change in the comet's dusty halo in the early morning of the 4th. Use the chart on page 61 to locate the comet, and log onto Astronomy.com for observing tips and tricks.

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