The deep space 1 encounter with comet 19P/Borrelly

D. C. Boice, L. A. Soderblom, D. T. Britt, R. H. Brown, B. R. Sandel, R. V. Yelle, B. J. Buratti, M. D. Hicks, R. M. Nelson, M. D. Rayman, J. Oberst, N. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


NASA's Deep Space 1 (DS1) spacecraft successfully encountered comet 19P/Borrelly near perihelion and the Miniature Integrated Camera and Spectrometer (MICAS) imaging system onboard DS1 returned the first high-resolution images of a Jupiter-family comet nucleus and surrounding environment. The images span solar phase angles from 88° to 52°, providing stereoscopic coverage of the dust coma and nucleus. Numerous surface features are revealed on the 8-km long nucleus in the highest resolution images (47-58 m/pixel). A smooth, broad basin containing brighter regions and mesa-like structures is present in the central part of the nucleus that seems to be the source of jet-like dust features seen in the coma. High ridges seen along the jagged terminator lead to rugged terrain on both ends of the nucleus containing dark patches and smaller series of parallel grooves. No evidence of impact craters with diameters larger than about 200-m are present, indicating a young and active surface. The nucleus is very dark with albedo variations from 0.007 to 0.035. Short-wavelength, infrared spectra from 1.3 to 2.6 μm revealed a hot, dry surface consistent with less than about 10% actively sublimating. Two types of dust features are seen: Broad fans and highly collimated "jets" in the sunward hemisphere that can be traced to the surface. The source region of the main jet feature, which resolved into at least three smaller "jets" near the surface, is consistent with an area around the rotation pole that is constantly illuminated by the sun during the encounter. Within a few nuclear radii, entrained dust is rapidly accelerated and fragmented and geometrical effects caused from extended source regions are present, as evidenced in radial intensity profiles centered on the jet features that show an increase in source strength with increasing cometocentric distance. Asymmetries in the dust from dayside to nightside are pronounced and may show evidence of lateral flow transporting dust to structures observed in the nightside coma. A summary of the initial results of the Deep Space 1 Mission is provided, highlighting the new knowledge that has been gained thus far.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-324
Number of pages24
JournalEarth, Moon and Planets
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Oct 2000


  • Coma
  • Comets
  • Deep Space 1
  • Nucleus
  • Spacecraft exploration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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