Astronomy Picture of the Day
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August 21, 1995
An Orbiting Iceberg
European Space Agency, Giotto Camera Team.
nucleus, formed from the primordial stuff of the solar system,
resembles a very dirty iceberg.
Orbiting far from our Sun,
it can remain frozen, preserved for billions of years.
Occasionally, a chance gravitational encounter will alter this distant
orbit and send the nucleus plummeting towards the inner solar system.
In 1986, the European spacecraft
visited the nucleus of
Halley's comet as it approached the sun. Data from Giotto's cameras
were used to produce this enhanced image which shows surface
features on the dark nucleus against the bright background of clouds
of gasses produced as the icy material was vapourized by the Sun's heat.
The potato shaped nucleus measures about 10 miles across.
Tomorrow's picture: Venus Unveiled
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