Abstract

Recent results from the Stardust comet sample-return mission have confirmed the idea that there is a continuum between primitive small bodies in the outer main asteroid belt and comets. Indeed, the mineralogy as well as the chemical and oxygen isotope compositions of the dust from comet Wild 2 are very similar to those of carbonaceous chondrites, a class of meteorites allegedly derived from primitive, dark asteroids. Comets no longer represent extremely primitive samples of the early Solar System that are radically different from dark asteroids. We enter a new era in which comets and their siblings, the dark asteroids, are seen as a collection of individual objects whose geology can be studied. The most primitive of these objects, i.e. the ones that escaped thermal metamorphism or hydrothermal alteration, can help us decipher physicochemical processes in the interstellar medium and in the protoplanetary disk from which our Solar System formed.

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