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Encyclopedia > Comet Wild 2
An enhanced image of Comet 81P/Wild, from the Stardust spacecraft, showing surface detail and plumes of gas.

Comet Wild 2 (officially designated 81P/Wild) is a comet named after Swiss astronomer Paul Wild (pronounced Vilt), who discovered it in 1978.

It is believed that for most of its 4.5 billion-year lifetime, Wild 2 had a more distant and circular orbit. In 1974, it passed close to the planet Jupiter, whose strong gravitational pull altered the comet's orbit and brought it into the inner solar system. Its orbital period changed from 40 years to about 6 years, and its perihelion is now about one astronomical unit.

Wild 2 was studied on January 2, 2004 by a spacecraft named Stardust, which collected particle samples from the comet's coma, to be returned to Earth in 2006.

The 72 close-up shots taken from Stardust show a surface riddled with flat-bottomed depressions, with sheer walls and other features that range from very small to up to 2 kilometres across. The comet itself has a diameter of 5 kilometres. These features are believed to be caused by impact craters or gas vents. During Stardust's flyby, at least 10 gas vents were active.

Other photographs

  • Photograph taken by Stardust spacecraft
  • Details of the plume jets

External links

  • Orbital data of Wild 2 (http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/comets/wildephem.html)
  • IAU Ephemerides page for 81P (http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/0081P.html)

  Results from FactBites:
Comet 81P/Wild 2 - Explore the Cosmos | The Planetary Society (882 words)
Wild 2 is a recent arrival to the Jupiter family of comets, having been jostled into its present orbit by a close encounter with the giant planet on September 10, 1974.
Wild 2 had made only five trips around the Sun in its new, close orbit by the time Stardust arrived to examine it.
A view of both the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) nucleus and the jets of comet Wild 2 is made possible by the superimposition of a long- and a short-exposure image.
Comet Wild 2 (433 words)
Comet Wild 2 is a short-period comet that orbits the Sun once every 6.39 years.
Since Wild 2 has only taken a few swings near the heat of the Sun, most of its ices have not been melted away.
Because Wild 2 (which is also known as Comet 81P/Wild 2) is in such a pristine condition, scientists chose it as the target of a space mission called Stardust.
  More results at FactBites »



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