In the Rearview Mirror: Studying the Role of Comets in the Formation and Ongoing Evolution of a Planetary System

Presenter: Walter Harris
When: October 26, 2004 2:30PM PDT

Comets are primordial objects that are the remnants of planetary formation in the solar system. From studies of their composition we are given insight into the conditions that prevailed in the proto-solar nebula, to the dynamical evolution of the planets as they formed, and possibly to characteristics of early terrestrial planet atmospheres. They are also important astrophysical laboratories for the study of plasma interactions and properties of gas and ions in the rarefied interplanetary medium. In this presentation I will discuss the origins of comets and their current reservoirs in the solar system, how they reach the inner solar system and how they are studied to determine both their structure and the characteristics of the neutral and ionized materials they produce. I will also describe our multifaceted program for the study of comets in our and other planetary systems that employs a combination of ground and space based observing tools.

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