Monday, March 13, 2006

Stardust findings

The samples in the aerogel from Stardust have come back to earth and are being evaluated by the mission scientists. (from CNN here.)
Hundreds of microscopic specks of comet dust were collected and returned to Earth after the robotic Stardust spacecraft flew past the comet Wild 2 in 2004.
The specks of dust are described as glassy materials, crystals like olivine and various trace elements such as magnesium, peridot and sulfides.
The grains are pristine samples of material which scientists say is providing clues to the formation of the sun and nine planets.

About 150 scientists have been studying the dust since it arrived.
The samples were the first extraterrestrial material returned to Earth since a manned mission returned moon samples more than three decades ago.

When the comet dust particles were captured, they left tracks -- some shaped like carrots, others like turnips -- in the gel which was contained in a tennis racket-sized collector mitt.

Scientists spent hours using a computer-controlled needle to remove each particle.

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