by Garry Marshall

Talk about dazzling fireworks. On July 4, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft flew itself into the path of an oncoming comet speeding at 23,000 miles an hour. The resulting collision created a spectacular flash of light that was photographed by the craft’s flyby mothership. The mission, the first to crack open a comet, should turn up new clues to the evolution of the solar system and tell us what role comets play in carrying life-supporting chemicals to Earth.

Check out our illustration for a blow-by-blow account of the collision:

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