Comet Encke: Radar Detection of Nucleus

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Science  16 Apr 1982:
Vol. 216, Issue 4543, pp. 293-295
DOI: 10.1126/science.216.4543.293


The nucleus of the periodic comet Encke was detected in November 1980 with the Arecibo Observatory's radar system (wavelength, 12.6 centimeters). The echoes in the one sense of circular polarization received imply a radar cross section of 1.1 ± 0.7 square kilometers. The estimated bandwidth of these echoes combined with an estimate of the rotation vector of Encke yields a radius for the nucleus of l.5+2.3–1.0 kilometers. The uncertainties given are dependent primarily on the range of models considered for the comet and for the manner in which its nucleus backscatters radio waves. Should this range prove inadequate, the true value of the radius of the nucleus might lie outside the limits given.

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