Visibility of Comet Nuclei

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Science  22 Jan 1982:
Vol. 215, Issue 4531, pp. 397-398
DOI: 10.1126/science.215.4531.397


Photography of the nucleus of comet Halley is the goal of several planned space missions. The nucleus of a comet is surrounded by a cloud of dust particles. If this cloud is optically thick, it will prevent observation of the nuclear surface. Broadband photometry of nine comets has been analyzed to determine the visibility of their nuclei. Only in the case of comet West near perihelion was the dust dense enough to interfere with imaging. Comparison of the visual brightness of the well-observed comets with that of Halley in 1910 leads to the conclusion that the nucleus of Halley can be imaged without significant obscuration by the dust.