Tag Archives: Stardust

Did Stardust capture stardust?

Scientists now believe that the spacecraft Stardust captured seven particles from interstellar space during its seven year journey.

Inside the canister, a tennis racket-like sample collector tray captured the particles in silica aerogel as the spacecraft flew within 149 miles (about 240 kilometers) of a comet in January 2004. An opposite side of the tray holds interstellar dust particles captured by the spacecraft during its seven-year, three-billion-mile journey.

Scientists caution that additional tests must be done before they can say definitively that these are pieces of debris from interstellar space. But if they are, the particles could help explain the origin and evolution of interstellar dust. The particles are much more diverse in terms of chemical composition and structure than scientists expected. The smaller particles differ greatly from the larger ones and appear to have varying histories. Many of the larger particles have been described as having a fluffy structure, similar to a snowflake. [emphasis mine]

It appears that for these seven particles, the scientists conclude they are likely interstellar particles because of the speed in which they were traveling when captured as well as their make-up. Both suggest an origin outside the solar system.

However, we should be cautious about this. The data still remains tenuous and preliminary. More work obviously needs to be done to pin this down definitively. More information here.

Stardust to end its mission after twelve years

Stardust has ended its mission after twelve years and two comet flybys.

Ground controllers will command the spacecraft to fire up its four rocket thrusters one last time at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) today to use up its remaining fuel. Engineers plan to watch closely while the probe’s propellant tank ran dry to help future missions gauge their fuel reserves more precisely.

Stardust images of comet locate crater from Deep Impact’s impact

More news from Stardust: scientists have now identified what they think is the crater produced by Deep Impact’s impact in 2005. Key quote:

The images revealed a 150-metre-wide crater at the Deep Impact collision point that was not present in 2005. The crater is a subtle feature in the images, but it appears consistently in multiple views from the spacecraft. “So I feel very confident that we did find the [impact] site,” said mission member Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, at a press briefing on Tuesday. The crater’s features are “subdued” rather than sharply defined, like those of craters made in hard materials like rock. “The message is: This surface of the comet where we hit is very weak,” said Schultz. The crater also has a small mound in its middle, indicating that some of the material thrown up by the impact was drawn by the comet’s gravity back down into the crater, he said: “In a way, it partly buried itself.”