Special Research Articles

Surface of Young Jupiter Family Comet 81P/Wild 2: View from the Stardust Spacecraft

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Science  18 Jun 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5678, pp. 1764-1769
DOI: 10.1126/science.1097899

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Images taken by the Stardust mission during its flyby of 81P/Wild 2 show the comet to be a 5-kilometer oblate body covered with remarkable topographic features, including unusual circular features that appear to be impact craters. The presence of high-angle slopes shows that the surface is cohesive and self-supporting. The comet does not appear to be a rubble pile, and its rounded shape is not directly consistent with the comet being a fragment of a larger body. The surface is active and yet it retains ancient terrain. Wild 2 appears to be in the early stages of its degradation phase as a small volatile-rich body in the inner solar system.

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