The images below are all SIMULATED views of Comet Wild-2 using the comet's latest orbital elements. All of the images are computer generated and are automatically updated every 10 minutes. The top two images shows the comet's orbits, and the bottom two images shows the comet's view of Earth and Jupiter.
Comet Wild-2's Orbit, Looking Down on the Sun
In this view, Comet Wild-2 moving in a counterclockwise direction towards the orbit of Jupiter. The comet was discovered in 1978 by Paul Wild, and he STARDUST spacecraft will encounter Comet Wild-2 in the year 2004.
Comet Wild-2's Orbit, Centered On The Comet
Passing through Comet Wild's coma, STARDUST will collect cometary material and return them to Earth in the year 2006.
Comet Wild-2's View of Earth
In January 2001, the STARDUST spacecraft will make an Earth flyby for a gravity assist to help it reach Comet Wild-2's orbit. The comet itself does not get particulary close to Earth. The comet's perihelion point (the closest distance to the Sun) is just inside of the orbit of Mars.
Comet Wild-2's View of Jupiter
Prior to 1974, Comet Wild-2 was a distant comet whose orbit was between the orbits of Jupiter and Uranus. In 1974, Comet Wild-2 made a very close flyby of Jupiter (only 0.006 AU), which significently altered the comet's orbit into its present day orbit. Comet Wild-2 currently crosses the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Jupiter will no doubt continue to have a major influence on Comet Wild-2 in the future.
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Ron Baalke, STARDUST Webmaster, email@example.com
Last Updated Wednesday, 07-Jun-2000 13:50:34 PDT