AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 15. The Solar System
Display, Monday, May 31, 1999, 9:20am-6:30pm, Southeast Exhibit Hall

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[15.05] Physical Properties of Cometary Nuclei

Y.R. Fernandez (U.Md.), C.M. Lisse (STScI/GSFC), M.F. A'Hearn (U.Md.)

We present a summary of results from our continuing survey of the physical properties of cometary nuclei. We have used mid-infrared and optical continuum imaging to constrain the size, albedo, rotation state, shape, and phase behavior of several nuclei. Some specific results regarding Comets Hale-Bopp and P/Encke will be discussed in detail. Before our survey, such simple properties as the effective radius and reflectivity were known for only one-half dozen nuclei -- we have doubled the total by using a new generation of mid-infrared detector arrays and new image processing techniques. Once a sizeable database of information on the ensemble characteristics of cometary nuclei has been created, it can give clues to the chemical, thermal, and collisional state of the early and evolving Solar System, since the comets represent some of the most pristine observable objects from that time.

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